The municipal bond tax exemption has a long history of success, having been maintained through two world wars and the Great Depression, as well as the recent Great Recession, and it continues to finance the majority of our nation’s infrastructure needs for state and local governments of all. Members of the Public Finance Network continue have emphasized that tax-exempt municipal bonds have been used to finance over $3 trillion in critical infrastructure including the construction of schools, hospitals, airports, affordable housing, water and sewer facilities, public power utilities, roads and public transit.
In 2015 alone, nearly 12,000 tax-exempt bonds were issued to finance more than $362 billion in infrastructure investments. Through the tax-exemption, the federal government continues to provide critical support for the federal, state and local partnership that develops and maintains essential infrastructure, which it cannot practically replicate by other means.
State and Local Fiscal Facts
Municipal securities are predominantly issued by state andlocal governments for governmental infrastructure and capital needs purposes, such as the construction or improvement of schools, streets, highways, hospitals, bridges, water and sewer systems, ports, airports and other public works. . Between 2007 and 2016, states, counties, and other local governments invested $3.8 trillion in infrastructure through tax-exempt municipal bonds.
Other facts on municipal bonds:
- The volume of municipal bonds hit $445 billion in 2016
- Over the last 10 years, state and local governments have invested $3.8 trillion in infrastructure through tax-exempt municipal bonds.
- Debt service is typically only about 5 percent of the general fund budgets of state and municipal governments
- Municipal securities are considered to be second only to Treasuries in risk level as an investment instrument.
GFOA has built many additional website resources to help explain municipal bonds. All resources are available on GFOA's website free of charge.
This site contains information that illustrates the power of the municipal bond to provide public infrastructure across the United States.
City of Topeka, Kansas - “The Topeka Blvd was a project that we bonded and recently paid off, which was a $51 million dollar project. The bridge was completely rebuilt utilizing the funds from the bond proceeds and, is a vital bridge to the community that connects North Topeka to the remaining City due to it spanning the Kansas river. Without the tax exempt status, City financial advisors have estimated that an additional $3.3 million would have been paid over the life of the loan.” –Brandon Kauffman, Finance Director
City of Moscow, Idaho - “The GO Bond was used to help purchase the Hamilton Lowe Aquatic Center (HLAC). The HLAC is the only outdoor public pool in the City of Moscow. The Sewer Revenue Bonds were used to continue the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. Some of the upgrades to the treatment plant were adding capacity, and efforts were undertaken to determine viability of alternative forms of treatment to meet effluent temperature limits accordance with the City’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDAS) permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” –Jeff Spellman, Accounting Specialist
City of Richmond, Virginia - The City of Richmond uses tax exempt bonds to fund almost all of the capital projects and equipment purchases of the City and the City’s Public Utilities’ operations. In its 2015 fiscal year the City’s interest expense on tax exempt bond debt included City capital projects such as school buildings, City municipal buildings, fire stations, libraries, streets, sidewalks, bridges, and parks, in addition to water and sewer projects, loans for police cars, fire trucks, and other City trucks.
City of Kansas City, Missouri - “In May, 2016, the City had its grand opening of its new Streetcar Line, which was financed in part with $63 million in tax exempt bonds issued by the City. The economic impact of this project includes approximately $2.1 billion in new downtown development. To date, 60 projects totaling $285 million have been completed, there are 44 projects totaling $858 million in permitting and construction phases, and there have been 18 additional projects announced totaling $929 million. Of particular note, the developer of a 44 unit market rate apartment building at 19th and Main Street cited the Streetcar as a main factor in the decision to construct the building on what was once a vacant lot.” – Doug Buehler, City Treasurer
City of Delaware, Ohio - “The city has issued $23,000,000 in tax exempt bonds for the purpose of building a new indoor recreation center and making other facility improvements at many of our public parks. This is being paid back by a taxpayer-voted increase in our city’s income tax rate. The proceeds of the income tax increase will pay off the debt and the tax will be rescinded in about 20 years. Had we not been able to issue tax exempt bonds, we would have had to reduce the amount of improvements from $23,000,000 to about $19,000,000”. –Dean Stelzer, Finance Director
Los Angeles County, California - “The issuance of long-term tax-exempt bonds provided the County with a cost-effective solution to re-finance the costs of acquisition, construction, renovation, improvement and equipping of a new community hospital commonly known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. The cost of the new hospital was initially financed during the construction phase of the project with the issuance of low-cost tax-exempt commercial paper notes. The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital has 131 beds providing general acute care, and features a 21-bed emergency department, a critical care unit, radiology, imaging and labor and delivery services”. –Matthew McGloin, Budget & Finance Director
City of Conroe, Texas - “The City of Conroe utilizes tax exempt municipal bonds to finance many infrastructure projects such as streets/roads, signals, parks, municipal buildings (fire stations, police headquarters), drainage, and transportation projects. Attached is a picture of our Police & Municipal Court Building, which was financed with tax exempt municipal bonds. The building serves our police officers, municipal court staff, and 911 dispatchers. The City of Conroe’s police staff has grown over the past several years due to increased demands from population growth, and a new building was needed to accommodate the needs of our growing community”. –Collin Boothe, Assistant Director of Finance