Politics & Government

Obama proposes new muni bonds for public-private infrastructure

President Barack Obama is proposing a new class of municipal bonds to spur public-private partnerships in U.S. infrastructure projects.

The program, called Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds, wouldn’t expire, and there’d be no cap on issuance, the administration said in a statement Friday. The debt also wouldn’t be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax, which limits the tax benefits and exemptions that high-earning individuals can claim to reduce their levies.

“QPIBs will extend the benefits of municipal bonds to public private partnerships, like partnerships that involve long-term leasing and management contracts, lowering the cost of borrowing and attracting new capital,” the administration said in the statement. The bonds will serve “as a permanent lower cost financing tool to increase private participation in building our nation’s public infrastructure.”

The proposal for a new type of security in the $3.6 trillion municipal market is part of a broader White House plan calling for more investment in roads, bridges and other infrastructure in advance of the administration’s budget proposal that will be released Feb. 2.

The market contracted in 2014 for an unprecedented fourth straight year as local officials refrained from borrowing even as tax-exempt interest rates were close to generational lows. The last time the market expanded was in 2010, the final year of the federal Build America Bonds program. That program provided municipalities a subsidy on interest costs for issuing taxable debt to finance infrastructure work.

Building Block

The new type of debt would build upon the $10 billion private-activity bond market by including funding for airports, ports, mass transit, water and sewer initiatives. The bonds couldn’t be used to privatize public systems or finance privately owned facilities.

America’s federal, state and local governments need to spend $3.6 trillion through 2020 to put the nation’s critical systems in adequate shape, according to a 2013 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Without higher spending, the group projects the costs of travel delays, power and water outages will reach $1.8 trillion by 2020.

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AMX-2015-01-16T08:51:00-05:00

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