DALLAS -- Oklahoma has named Jim Joseph, who has worked as a Wall Street credit analyst and financial adviser, as its second bond adviser.
Mr. Joseph, 39, said he will continue to work on upgrading the state's double-A credit as Oklahoma considers placing a $500 million-plus general obligation bond program before the voters next year. He also said the state may soon offer bond advisory services to local issuers on a voluntary basis.
"I think they have done some very positive things here," said Mr. Joseph, who most recently was associate director of the Government Finance Officers Association's financial advisory unit. "I think the credit markets should be more comfortable with the state's borrowing programs today."
Mr. Joseph began his new duties Oct. 14, five months after the departure of his predecessor, Stan Provus. Mr. Provus, the first to hold the bond adviser's job, left last spring to pursue art interests.
During his tenure, the state tightened management of its debt and fiscal programs to regain the triple-A bond rating it lost during the 1980s oil bust.
For example, Oklahoma has placed a $190 million annual cap on the amount of oil and gas taxes that can be used in the general fund, which totals nearly $3 bilion.
Mr. Joseph believes such mandates show that the state is not too dependent on the energy industry for its revenues.
By law, any surpluses automatically are deposited in the state's rainy-day fund. Voters created the fund in 1985 with an amendment to the state's constitution. The fund currently has a balance of $202.7 million.
While it is intended for emergencies, state officials have been accused of drawing on the fund to cover not-so-pressing general fund needs.
Harry Culver, spokesman for the state's Office of Finance, said that since 1988 lawmakers have made four separate draws on the fund for a total of $131 million. The money has gone to prison projects, local school needs, and growing higher-education costs.
In fact, Oklahoma lawmakers are reportedly considering whether to draw as much as $30 million from the rainy-day fund to help persuade United Airlines to site a $1 billion, 5,000-job jet-maintenance base in Oklahoma City.
Still, Mr. Joseph believes the fund shows that Oklahoma is not overly dependent on the oil and gas industries. "The rainy-day fund really insulates us from what has been seen as an energy-based economy," he said.
He said he expects to carry that message to Wall Street soon. Analysts from Standard & Poor's Corp. will be in Oklahoma City on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, and he expects to meet with other rating agencies early next year. In fact, Oklahoma may ask Fitch Investors Service for its first rating of the state early in 1992.
Mr. Joseph said he expects no change in the way the three-member bond advisers' office does its job, though he hopes to offer advisory services to local issuers who want the help.
He said the state agency could help them in packaging a request for proposal or with pricing information and other guidance. Such assistance would be provided only if it were sought.
Mr. Joseph comes to Oklahoma after 13 years in bond-related jobs that ranged from Wall Street analyst to investment banker to financial adviser.
From 1978 to 1980, he worked as a municipal analyst in the Northwest for Moody's Investors Service. Then, until 1983, he was the manager of the municipal bond division in the Oregon Treasury, where he oversaw the state's general obligation bond programs. He said that job was comparable to his new position.
Mr. Joseph has worked as an associate in the Portland office of St. Louis-based A.G. Edwards & Sons, in the San Francisco office of E.F. Hutton, and then in Florida for Public Financial Management Inc. of Philadelphia.
In 1989, he returned to the GFOA, where he was associate director until his resignation last month. Mr. Joseph was one of four full-time financial advisers working with issuers around the nation. He had held a similar position for one-year in the mid-1980s.