Treasurer Marlo Oaks releases Utah’s first-ever Debt Affordability Study

Utah Treasurer Marlo M. Oaks announced the release of Utah’s first-ever Debt Affordability Study. The study is intended to inform the legislature, investors, rating agencies and all Utahns on the State’s outstanding tax-supported debt obligations, debt practices and perspectives of the state treasurer on the prudent use of debt.

“The Debt Affordability Study is the result of a collaborative process among several State agencies and officials to make information about the State’s use of debt more accessible and understandable,” Treasurer Oaks said. “The Office of State Treasurer has a long history of informally advising policymakers on debt policy. The Debt Affordability Study formalizes the process by providing concise and accurate data and expert analysis to policymakers that enables them to make critical decisions on the authorization of new debt.”

The study uses comparison data from other states, best practices of credit rating services and strategic ideas to provide informed perspectives on the reasonable use of State debt. The intent is to aid legislators in making difficult decisions regarding the authorization of new debt and the funding of long-term liabilities. 

“Utah has a long history of being thorough and collaborative in its fiscal management. Consequently, Utah is one of only 13 states to receive a AAA rating by the major rating agencies. This allows the State to finance large projects at the lowest interest rates available in the market and ultimately save taxpayer money,” Treasurer Oaks said. “It is my hope that the Debt Affordability Study will assist in maintaining Utah’s legacy of conservative debt use, while also being pragmatic about the role of debt in financing capital needs that are critical to Utah’s growing economy.”

In addition to mandating the study, HB82 from the 2022 Utah General Legislative Session also strengthens the governance and oversight of the State’s debt activities by creating the State Finance Review Commission, which held its first meeting on September 27. The commission is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the State’s debt-related activities. The State did not previously have a single, uniform governance structure in place to monitor all of its debt-related activities, and there is an increasing number of State-created agencies with bonding authority.

As required by statute, the Debt Affordability Study was submitted to the State Finance Review Commission and the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee on November 1. Additionally, it is posted on the Office of State Treasurer website.