New Jersey Treasury officials say they hope to refinance at least half a billion dollars of outstanding bonds by the end of the year, but have not targeted particular issues.
"There's a substantial amount of bonds that can be refinanced, but we have to investigate it before we can issue any bonds," Robert Lurie, New Jersey's director of public finance, said earlier this month. He explained that tax laws that might forbid refunding a particlilar issue are still being examined.
Lurie said the state's strategv is to avoid piecemeal refinancings, which would be more costly than refinancing all the eligible outstanding bonds at once. The state has targeted the end of next month for the refunding.
Lurie said he is optimistic that about three-quarters of the issues that make sense financially to refund might also be eligible under tax laws.
Interest rates, which for months hovered at levels not seen since the 1960s, have been creeping higher in recent weeks, and state lawmakers have begun questioning why New Jersey's refinancing plans have not been finalized sooner.
In September budget hearings, for example, Sen. Robert E. Littell, R-Sussex, noted it has been several years since New Jersey has refinanced bonds.
"Given the current interest rates being lower than at any time in modern history, is there any reason you are not standing before us and offering a program to refinance some of the bonds and save a couple of hundred million dollars?" Littell asked state Treasurer Samuel Crane.
At that time, Crane said the state expected to finish its analysis shortly. On other fronts, Lurie said this month that investigations into what went wrong last June when the state was a day late with a $300 million note payment are "over with." He said no additional information about the investigation will be made public.
"We don't intend to detail what went wrong," Lurie said. " There's no reason to pin blame."
At the September budget hearing, Lurie told lawmakers the state may change paying agents "at some point" as a result of the mistake, but said it would be "unfair to take any drastic action until we are clearer on what happened and why. "
The paying agent on the deal was First Fidelity Bank.