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U.S. banks poured more than $200 billion into state and local-government debt since the onset of the financial crisis six years ago, boosting their share of the $3.7 trillion market to a two-decade high.

Now, if federal regulators have their way, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer says banks next year will have more incentive to buy debt sold by Saudi Arabia or Botswana than by U.S. municipalities. The result, he says: higher costs for taxpayers.

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