The Fiscal Health of State Pension Plans: Funding Gap Continues to Grow

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, Fact Sheet, March 2014

From the summary:
Based on the most recent comprehensive data, the gap between what state and local governments have promised in pension benefits to their workers and the funding to meet those obligations continues to widen. New data for fiscal year 2012 show that state-run retirement systems had a $914 billion shortfall. When promises by local governments were factored in, the total pension debt was over $1 trillion.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, policymakers have increasingly focused attention on the fiscal health of staterun retirement systems. A combination of investment return shortfalls, missed contributions, and unfunded benefit increases had left states with a $452 billion unfunded liability for pensions in fiscal 2008; by 2010 this funding gap had grown to $757 billion.

In spite of recent strong investment returns, the new data show that the funding gap for state plans has continued to grow—increasing by $157 billion from 2010 to 2012. This figure represents 14 percent growth, adjusted for inflation, and is primarily the result of states continuing to acknowledge the investment losses suffered in fiscal 2009. Because most state pension plans smooth out gains and losses over five years, they would not finish absorbing the impact of the market collapse until fiscal 2013. …