State Unfunded Pension Liabilities Exceed $1 Trillion

Analysis marks pension liabilities as root of state budget crisis
Monday, March 7, 2011

Note: For interview opportunites with the author of the pension liabilities report or with the president of State Budget Solutions, Bob Williams, please call Claire Milbrandt at 414-465-2225 or email at

For Immediate Release

State Unfunded Pension Liabilities Exceed $1 Trillion

Analysis marks pension liabilities as root of state budget crisis

*Note: for the full report see
  WASHINGTON, DC- The nation's top state budget watchdog, State Budget Solutions, released a report on this week demonstrating the dramatic extent of unfunded liabilities facing the state government public employee pension funds- ranging from half a trillion to $2.8 trillion dollars depending on the study used in the analysis. "This report shows that states have been fooling the public and the federal government for years," said Bryan Leonard, author of the study. "The breadth and depth of the public pension crisis is finally coming to light and the numbers clearly speak for themselves."

The analysis provides comprehensive data from three studies to demonstrate a consensus about the scale of the unfunded pension crisis spreading across the nation, just as public employees rally against proposed reforms in wages and benefits in states like Wisconsin and Ohio. "It's clear that this study reveals that the increasing costs of supporting the unfunded liability that is needed to pay government employee pensions is the real driver of the budget crises in the states," said Bob Williams, President of State Budget Solutions. "Our report demonstrates that legislators and governors need to come to grips with the pension funding crisis or it will put their states in fiscal peril for decades."

According to the study, states with the largest pension liabilities are California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Ohio. State governments use a special accounting method, known as GASB, which differs from that of the private sector. "Under GASB, government pension funds have not accurately portrayed the real value the pension funds. If states were required to use private sector accounting rules, like those used in the Novy-Marx & Rauh studies, the liabilities are much more dramatic," said Williams.

A full state-by-state analysis of the public employee pension unfunded liability can be found at

Filed Under : Pensions