Just as Gov. Rendell is trying to borrow $1 billion for infrastructure spending, an article in the New York Times warns that we may be on the cusp of a full-blown public sector debt crisis in the United States.
The finances of some state and local governments are so distressed that some analysts say they are reminded of the run-up to the subprime mortgage meltdown or of the debt crisis hitting nations in Europe.
Analysts fear that at some point — no one knows when — investors could balk at lending to the weakest states, setting off a crisis that could spread to the stronger ones, much as the turmoil in Europe has spread from country to country.
The Times sees several big factors pushing the debt crisis. Local and state governments are increasingly finding themselves short on cash, thanks to the lingering recession. That has led to a variety of actions, such as delaying payments to vendors or suspending agreements with contractors, that undermine the creditworthiness of governments. Additionally, many officials have resorted to fiscal tricks such as delaying pension contributions to generate more revenue. That's exacerbated long-term structural problems in government finances, especially the problem of paying for retirement benefits for public sector works.
Obviously, all of these factors are present in Philadelphia. We should take this article as a warning that troubling times for government budgets are far from over.