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John E. Petersen  |  Columnist

Email : jep@gmu.edu

John E. Petersen was GOVERNING's Public Finance columnist for over two decades, with more than 40 years of experience in domestic and international finance conducting research, financial advisory work and teaching. He was a professor at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. He passed away April 4, 2012.

Public Money

Stockton, California’s Debt Problems May Set Precedent

How Stockton's story unfolds could have major consequences for public employee pensions and bondholders nationwide.

April 30, 2012
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Finance

State Tax Codes in Need of Repair

State tax codes are filled with a legion of special treatments that could very well lead to a state’s fiscal destruction.

February 29, 2012
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Public Money

2011: The Bad Year That Wasn’t

In this Public Finance column, John E. Petersen says that despite dire forecasts, states and localities paid their debts on time and in full.

December 26, 2011
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Public Money

State, Local Finances in a Global Economy

State and local fiscal fortunes are now linked to the ups and downs of markets on every continent.

October 31, 2011
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Public Money

States and Localities Can’t Afford Big Government Projects

The fiscal situation will likely make huge capital projects like the space shuttle program and Boston’s Big Dig a thing of the past.

August 31, 2011
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Public Money

Who's the First to Go?

Public employees are at the front of the firing line, paying the price for widespread voter angst.

June 30, 2011
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Public Money

The Debt Demon

Have states and localities borrowed too much?

April 29, 2011
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Public Money

Is Federal Help Truly a Myth?

History says cities and states can look to the feds for a fiscal rescue plan.

February 28, 2011
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Public Money

The Effect of Federal Budget Cuts on States and Localities

When the federal government starts reducing its deficit, watch out below!

January 1, 2011
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Public Money

The Effects of the Housing Market on Government Finance

Plunging real estate values have devastating consequences for government finance.

November 1, 2010
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Finance

Build America Bonds Make a Mark

The new Build America Bonds are having an outsized impact on the way states and localities raise money to build and fix infrastructure.

June 1, 2010
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Public Money

Sinking Ships of State

Deep cuts in state and local spending may exert an undertow on the nation's recovery.

May 1, 2010
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Finance

Mayhem and the Markets

It is an understatement to say that the financial markets are in an "unsettled" state. They are in paroxysms of uncertainty. For those in charge...

May 31, 2008
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Public Money

Rethinking the Rules

Tax and spending changes in recent years call into question the wisdom of prohibiting states from running deficits.

December 1, 2002
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Public Money

States and the Markets

While the federal government remains stymied over corporate misdeeds, state officials have come out with guns blazing.

August 1, 2002
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Public Money

Can Enron Happen Here?

Several state and local investment funds took a beating in the Enron debacle. It could have been much worse.

April 1, 2002
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Public Money

Tifs in the Hinterlands

Leveraging future revenues to build urban-like infrastructure is getting special attention in small towns that are growing like Topsy.

August 1, 2000
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Public Money

A Leaky Roof

There's an $80 billion gap in what we spend and what we need to spend to maintain our infrastructure as is.

January 1, 2004
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Finance

Living With Less

No amount of casino gambling, Sunday liquor sales or sky-high taxes on tobacco and booze will close state budget gaps.

July 1, 2003
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Public Money

Rating The Body Politic

A key factor in muni bond ratings these days is the quality of governance or 'political risk' of an issuer.

January 1, 2003
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Public Money

All Hail the Dowager Queen

What she lacks in youthful upside potential, she makes up for in mature dependability: The muni bond's heyday is coming.

December 1, 2000
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Public Money

Beware the Bouncing Tax Bill

State and local revenues are more exposed to an economic downturn because they're more attuned to nonstop economic growth.

February 1, 2001
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Finance

Guide to Money Management: Searching for Security

Earnings are down, benefits are up. For state and local retirement systems, it's been a year of living very dangerously.

June 1, 2002
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Public Money

Protecting the Nest Egg

Public pensions are now well funded. But with the buildup in equities, they have taken on more investment risk.

October 1, 2000
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Public Money

Death And Taxes

The demise of the federal estate tax will take with it billions in state revenue--unless states distance themselves from the feds.

March 1, 2003
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Public Money

Debtor's Dilemma

The core problem for states is not structural deficits. It's the polarizing disagreement over what to do about them.

May 1, 2004
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Public Money

Here's to Your Health

Either we take steps to halt the escalation of health care costs or we make plans for the higher bills to be paid.

June 1, 2002
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Public Money

Borrowers Beware

The SEC is going after muni bond issuers who fail to supply adequate information when their debt goes on sale.

November 1, 2004
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Public Money

Buy Now, Pay Later

The problem in putting a price tag on government is that costs are deferred--buried in borrowed money and out of voters' sight.

September 1, 2004
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Public Money

Retirement Rage

The high costs and rising profiles of public employee pension benefits are raising the public's hackles.

July 1, 2004
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Finance

Balancing Portfolios in a Dot-Com World

It's pretty straightforward. Those charged with investing public money have only four things to worry about: their fund's financial condition and cash flow; the state of the economy; what monetary and other regulators are up to; and how the markets are behaving, which is to say what other investors collectively are thinking about these same things and what they think will happen.

June 1, 2000
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Public Money

Downturn With a Difference

The present recession, compounded by the war on terrorism, could fundamentally transform the economy.

December 1, 2001
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Public Money

The Budgetary Abyss

States are pushing a bow wave of operating deficits ahead of them in hopes that fiscal conditions may brighten.

May 1, 2003
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Public Money

Shelter from the Fiscal Storm

This may be a time for states and localities to keep spending up and, if need be, to borrow money to finance new projects.

October 1, 2001
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Public Money

The Ayes of Texas

Referendums held in special districts permit multimillion-dollar bonds to be issued based on the casting of a single vote.

August 1, 2001
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Public Money

Productivity Pinch

Because of the nature of the services they provide, states and localities find it difficult to increase productivity.

September 1, 2003
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Public Money

Going For Broke

Using the initiative process, Californians have fiscally handcuffed their governor, legislature and local governments.

November 1, 2003
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Public Money

The Management Factor

How well governments plan for, execute and report their financial affairs is becoming a decisive factor in credit ratings.

June 1, 2001
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Finance

Find Me the Money

In an era of uncertainty, states and localities are looking to some unusual options.

June 1, 2004
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Public Money

Guide to Municipal Finance

Credit Raters Make Their Mark

June 1, 2006
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Public Money

Budgets Flying Blind

With economic uncertainties undermining forecasts of future revenue, local budget makers are reluctant to be optimistic.

February 1, 2002
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Finance

Property Tax Favorism

America is a nation of majority rule, and one outcome of that is that the majority typically looks out for its economic interests. Take the uneven treatment of property taxes.

July 1, 2007
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Public Money

Of Scandals and Scoundrels

By stupidity or guile, public finance officials--like their corporate peers--can go astray. Fast-buck opportunities are there.

October 1, 2002
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Public Money

The Not-So-Great GASB

Why should governments calculate value for something that can't be sold anyway? Who's going to buy a city street?

February 1, 2000
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Public Money

The Muni E-Bond Revolution

With computers able to process tons of information quickly, the complicated muni market is a natural for electronic trading.

April 1, 2000
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Public Money

Bet on the Tortoise

With the economy weakening, will the bottom drop out of the real estate market--and property-tax collections--again?

April 1, 2001
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Public Money

Tax Avoidance Inc.

Corporations today believe they owe it to their stockholders to minimize business taxes any way they can.

March 1, 2004
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