Great news! Standard & Poor’s and Fitch raised the District of Columbia’s bond rating to AA+. They now join Moody’s, which previously rated the District as AA+. This is the highest bond rating the city has ever earned from the top financial agencies.
After a Committee of the Whole meeting and a Legislative Meeting last week, I boarded a train to New York. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and CFO Jeff DeWitt joined me to participate in a full day of meetings regarding the District’s finances.
We met with Moody’s in the morning and with Standard and Poor’s and Fitch in the afternoon. The purpose of this trip was to make the case to these rating agencies that the District’s finances are in sound fiscal shape.
When I joined the Council in 1991, the District’s finances were nowhere near as good as they are today. In 1995, the District’s bond rating was cut to junk status and we ran a deficit of $722 million. Congress implemented a Control Board in 1995, tasked with balancing the District’s budget.
We’ve made great strides since then, ensuring Washington, D.C., is one of the best run, most financially successful cities in the country.Since 1996, the District has had 22 consecutive balanced budgets, and the recently passed Budget Support Act will ensure a 23rd.
The District’s mandated federal and local reserves increased to $2.9 billion this year, which equates to 54 days of operating expenses. The city’s pension and other post-employment benefit plans are fully funded, and funding has been set aside for critical infrastructure programs over the next six years.
Two of my major priorities were realized in this year’s budget, as Metro and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities both received dedicated streams of funding. That being noted, I continue to focus on improving the District’s finances so that we can achieve the highest rating for our bonds. This would reduce our borrowing costs, saving our taxpayers even more money.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.