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ATLANTA-Fitch, IBCA, Duff & Phelps is giving Georgia’s $413 million in general obligation bonds a AAA rating. The bonds are 2001A and 2001B and go out for bids July 10. The state’s $5.3 billion in outstanding general obligation bonds also received a AAA rating.

The New York-based rating service, in a prepared statement, says the high credit standing results from “excellent debt policies, consistent maintenance of conservative and sound financial operations, its past growth and potential for future development.”

That’s high praise out-of-state corporate relocators look for in planning state, regional or local branches, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

The state’s employment continues to increase. May was up 1.5% from May 2000. Fueling the employment engine were gains of 3.6% in services, 2.1% in trade; and 1.4% in construction. Manufacturing declined 2.9%; financial services was down 0.2%.

“Financial operations for the past seven fiscal years have been very favorable, producing an annual surplus now in the $800 million to $1 billion range,” the Fitch statement says. “Strong revenue growth and expenditure control have both been factors.”

Fitch notes the state’s reserve is fully funded, with recent legislation further expanding the maximum to 5%, rather than 4% of revenues, allowing a 3% to 5% range.

The $60.9 million of 2001A bonds will be due July, 2002-06 and are non-callable. The $352.1 million of 2001B bonds will be due July 1, 2002-21 and are callable beginning July 1, 2011, at par.

Fitch notes that for 1999-2000, Georgia’s revenue estimates required no growth in tax collections, while “actual experience resulted in an increase of 8.3% or more than $1 billion over expectations.”

The 2000-2001 state budget was based on revenue collections about 3% below 1999-2000, with actual collections to date only 1.3% below, Fitch says. That provided a “substantial surplus, expected in the $800 million to $1 billion range, all of which is expected to be carried forward, in support of anticipated slowing in revenues and the economy.”

For the 11 months of the fiscal year, revenue was up about 5.3%, “underlining the state’s conservative budgetary practices and supporting the expectation for another year of large surplus,” Fitch says.

All of Georgia’s bonds are general obligation or state-guaranteed. “Its debt ratios are moderate, with net tax-supported debt of $5.9 billion or $722 per capita, 1% of estimated full value and 2.6% of personal income,” the rating service statement notes.

Authorized but unissued general obligations total $326 million. A sale of $185 million is expected this fall. Georgia’s broadened Transportation and Tollway Authority is also considering issuing $1 billion in transportation-related bonds to be secured by a combination of federal revenues and the motor fuel tax, Fitch says.

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