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Ten States Now Buried by Pensions


There are currently ten states whose pension liabilities are higher than total yearly revenues, according to a new Moody’s report on public pensions. The states in question included Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Connecticut. Worst of all was Illinois, where pension liabilities are more than twice as high as revenues. As Reuters reports, the culprit is the same in all cases:

“The states that have the largest relative pension liabilities have at least one thing in common: a history of contributing less to their pension plans than the actuarially required contributions (ARC),” Moody’s said in the report, which looked at data for fiscal 2011.

On the other hand, states with pension liabilities that represented just a sliver of revenues, such as Wisconsin, “have little in common outside of a commitment to making full…payments to their pension plans.”

Among other things, this suggests that pension liabilities will play an even larger role in determining the creditworthiness of states and cities than they do now. Mayors and Governors who want to borrow money in the future—i.e. all of them—need to look long and hard at the way they manage their pension programs.

[Piggy Bank image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Atanu Maulik

    How come the Anglo-Sphere get so lucky when it comes to natural resources ? Amidst all the hoopla about the rise of China, BRICS or whatever acronym which catches the fancy of investment gurus, it is the English speaking world which is really on the up, all given an extra boost by their oil and gas bounties.

    • catorenasci

      Well, the Brits used to say ‘God is an Englishman’ ….

    • TMLutas

      For oil, look at the number of wells drilled. The anglosphere allows wildcatters to *try* and they do, finding more of the oil that was already out there. Different legal regimes lead to different results.

      • Galileo2

        Whereas in Mexico…the Mexican government owns all the oil rights…so it is usually bad news if oil is discovered on your land as PetroMex has no incentive to extract it with your preferences in mind, let alone paying you for it.

        • TMLutas

          That’s exactly the foundation of Anglo-Sphere “luck” in resource extraction, aligning incentives so that the maximum number of stakeholders are in favor of exploration and extraction.

    • AD_Rtr_OS

      Where individual initiative is rewarded, you will get more of it, and more resource development.
      You could have just as easily asked why the Industrial Revolution started in the Anglo-sphere – the concept of using steam for power was several millenia old by the time that the industrial steam engine was conceived and built.

      • Atanu Maulik

        While all of this is true, one can’t deny that the Anglo-Sphere got lucky from a geographical and resources point of view. Look at Japan, much larger than UK, but no luck with natural resources.

  • bigfire

    Odd that People’s Republic of California is not on this list. But have no fear now that the public employee union owned Democratic party has the super majority in California, taxes are her to stay and we’ll make our very best effort to outspend Illinois.

    • musterion

      Of course, California could drill its way of of this impasse, but the ecofreaks won’t let them.

    • TMLutas

      The measure here is a ratio. It’s California’s large population and economy that keep it off the list (look at the bottom of the article where it is explained there). CA has the 2nd highest unfunded liability after Illinois.

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