- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska has received AAA bond ratings from three agencies for general obligation debt, welcomed by Gov. Bill Walker as “excellent” news.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services and Fitch Ratings each gave Alaska a stable outlook, citing large state reserves. Moody’s Investors Service, meanwhile, had a negative outlook.

Moody’s said while the state has benefited from high oil prices in recent years, prices well below previous expectations could lead the state to substantially reduce its financial reserves, eroding a key support to its highest-level rating.

State investment officer Deven Mitchell said by email that there is concern with the negative outlook and that’s why state revenue officials asked Walker to participate in meetings with the rating agencies last month. The state’s high credit rating is valuable “and should not be given up without a scuffle,” Mitchell wrote.

Low oil prices have exacerbated the state’s budget deficit, projected to be in the billions of dollars this year and next. Both Walker and lawmakers see the need for cuts and downsizing state government, with an eye to preserving savings, though some lawmakers have said cuts could be deeper than what Walker has proposed.

Walker, in a release, said the ratings would provide the state with “unparalleled access” to funding for future capital projects.

He said he wanted to thank past leaders who had the wisdom to create large reserves, without which he said the ratings could not have been secured.

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