A new report from the PEW Charitable Trust shows that funding for public sector retirement plans in states across the US is getting worse, a situation which has been compounded by weak investment returns in 2015.
New Jersey, for example, has only set aside 38% of what it needs to meet its pension commitments. Because public sector workers’ plans are guaranteed by state constitutions, this means taxpayers will be on the hook for any future shortfalls. At current levels in New Jersey, this works out to USD $10,648 per person. Only two states in the union, South Dakota and Wisconsin, are in surplus positions. The other 48 states have a combined shortfall of approximately $1 trillion.
Compounding the problem is the fact that many states have also made commitments to cover retiree healthcare needs. These healthcare and other post retirement benefits get even lower funding priority than the retirement plans, generally, and unlike the retirement plans, post retirement benefits are not guaranteed by state constitutions. This means that pensioners could be left without coverage if states decide to rewrite the rules when they can no longer afford to pay the benefits.