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North Carolina wants to use existing low rates to shore up retiree pensions and health-care debt.

Municipal bond expert Matt Fabian also notes that savings from refinancing debt aren't immediate. Similar to refinancing a home, the debtor makes lower payments on the debt going forward, meaning the total savings are realized over time. For instance, Connecticut in 2014 refinanced $822 million in general obligation bonds and saved $94.8 million over the next 11 years.“So the savings are real but it’s on paper,” says Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics. “In effect, it’s a promise to pay [over time] from the general fund the savings they just generated.”

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