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Ohio Gov. John Kasich is using the economic turnaround in Ohio to help make his case for president.
In a recent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Kasich touted the state’s credit rating as part of his success story.
"Guess what, our credit -- up. Think about our pensions -- solid," Kasich said.
"What’s your credit rating?" Hannity asked.
"It’s as high as you can get, AA+," Kasich responded.
"What about AAA?" Hannity asked.
"I don’t think you can really get to AAA," Kasich said,
Is AA+ the highest credit rating a state could receive? That sounded dubious to us, so we wanted to investigate.
For this analysis, we’re focusing on the state’s general obligation bond rating -- that is, an expert analysis of a state’s ability to pay its debts.This rating, which is kind of like a person’s credit score, is formulated by three major rating agencies: Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.
Neither Kasich’s campaign nor the governor’s office responded to us by our deadline.
Standard and Poor’s sent PolitiFact Ohio its entire history of U.S. state ratings. The history shows when Ohio was first rated, in 1984, it earned AA, and it held there until upgrading to AA+ in 1996.
S&P has an additional, forward-looking catagory for ratings which include "negative," "stable," and positive," and while Ohio has cycled through "stable" to "negative" twice in recent history (the outlook was "negative" in 2002 and again in 2009), the AA+ rating has remained unchanged for 20 years.
Critical to Kasich’s claim, S&P indeed has a AAA credit rating. And several states have the highest mark.
Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming -- are all rated AAA, according to S&P. Three of those states -- Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia -- have held their perfect scores for 50 years or more.
For the record, Moody’s and Fitch also issues AAA ratings.
Don Chance, a professor of finance at Louisiana State University, said it’s impressive for a state government to maintain a positive credit rating in difficult economic times. But, on the merits of the claim, Kasich is clearly mistaken.
"I think he probably got caught up in the moment, caught up reeling off the bullet points," Chance said, noting that Kasich previously worked at Lehman Brothers.
Kasich said on Fox News that his state of Ohio earned the highest possible credit rating, at AA+. When host Hannity asked about a AAA rating, Kasich said, "I don’t think you can really get to AAA."
In fact, you can, and 15 other states currently hold a AAA credit rating, according to S&P.
We rate this statement False.
Standard & Poor’s RatingsDirect, "History of U.S. State Ratings," Jan. 7, 2016
Standard & Poor’s RatingsDirect, "Ohio; Appropriations; General Obligation," Oct. 12, 2015
Pew Charitable Trusts, "Infographic: S&P State Credit Ratings, 2001-2014," June 9, 2014
Interview with Don Chance, professor of finance, Louisiana State University, Feb. 4, 2016
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