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California talks to Wall St. about big short-term loan

September 27, 2010 |  2:15 pm

California said it was talking with Wall Street banks about a potentially huge short-term loan to help replenish the state’s cash coffers once a budget agreement is reached in Sacramento.

The loan, which could be highly profitable for the banks, then would be repaid within about four weeks via so-called revenue anticipation notes the state would sell to individual and institutional investors.

The bank deal could allow the state to begin making payments to the long list of creditors that have been stiffed as the budget stalemate has continued since the new fiscal year began July 1.

Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office said Monday that the state was negotiating with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and other big banks for the loan. The total could be upwards of $5 billion, depending on what the state finance department estimates its near-term cash needs will be, said Joe DeAnda, a spokesman for Lockyer.

“It could be less or it could be more” than $5 billion, he said.

In August 2009 the state borrowed $1.5 billion from JPMorgan Chase at an annualized interest rate of 3%, a hefty return to the bank. That sum was repaid a month later when the state sold $8.8 billion in revenue anticipation notes to investors at annualized tax-free rates as low as 1.25%. The notes matured the following May and June.

The state normally borrows via short-term notes in autumn to tide it over until tax revenue arrives later in the fiscal year. But Lockyer can’t borrow money until a budget deal is reached.

Late last week Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he and legislative leaders had reached "a framework of an agreement" on eliminating the state's $19.1-billion deficit and ending the budget stalemate. Talks were continuing Monday.

-- Tom Petruno

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