America’s Pension Bomb: Illinois Is Just the Start

By Laurie MeislerLaurie Meisler

We’ve been hearing it for years: America’s public pensions are a ticking time bomb. Well, at long last, the state of Illinois is about to expose just how big this blowup could be. As of the 2015 fiscal year, Illinois had promised its employees $199 billion in retirement benefits. Right now, it’s $119.1 billion short. That gap lies at the center of a years-in-the-making fiscal mess that’s threatening to drop the state’s credit rating to junk-bond status. But Illinois is hardly alone. Connecticut and New Jersey—states that, to most of the world, seem like oases of prosperity—are under growing financial strain, too.

We’ve ranked the states by the size of their funding gap. The lower the funding ratio, the more money the state has to come up with to meet its pension obligations.

Public employee pension funding ratio by state, 2015 figures

50% or less

60%

70%

80%

90% or more

No data available

ME

AK

WI

 

VT

NH

WA

ID

MT

ND

MN

MI

NY

MA

RI

IL

OR

UT

WY

SD

IA

OH

PA

NJ

CT

IN

CA

 

NV

CO

NE

MO

KY

WV

VA

MD

DE

AZ

NM

KS

AR

TN

SC

NC

DC

OK

LA

MS

AL

GA

HI

TX

FL

No data available

50% or less

60%

70%

80%

90% or more

ME

82.5

AK

67.5

WI

 

VT

67.8

NH

65.4

WA

87.1

ID

91.8

MT

74.5

ND

70.4

MN

79.8

MI

63.7

NY

90.6

MA

62.4

RI

58.7

IL

40.2

OR

91.9

UT

85.7

WY

73.1

SD

104.1

IA

85.1

OH

75.0

PA

55.8

NJ

37.5

CT

50.2

IN

64.6

CA

 

NV

75.1

CO

60.4

NE

91.3

MO

81.4

KY

37.8

WV

77.1

VA

74.6

MD

68.2

DE

89.3

AZ

 

NM

70.6

KS

64.9

AR

82.4

TN

 

SC

57.8

NC

95.5

DC

OK

79.2

LA

63.8

MS

 

AL

67.0

GA

80.9

HI

62.4

TX

75.6

FL

86.3

ME

82.5

No data available

50% or less

60%

70%

80%

90% or more

AK

67.5

WI

 

VT

67.8

NH

65.4

WA

87.1

ID

91.8

MT

74.5

ND

70.4

MN

79.8

MI

63.7

NY

90.6

MA

62.4

RI

58.7

IL

40.2

OR

91.9

UT

85.7

WY

73.1

SD

104.1

IA

85.1

OH

75.0

PA

55.8

NJ

37.5

CT

50.2

IN

64.6

CA

 

NV

75.1

CO

60.4

NE

91.3

MO

81.4

WV

77.1

VA

74.6

MD

68.2

DE

89.3

KY

37.8

AZ

 

NM

70.6

KS

64.9

AR

82.4

TN

 

SC

57.8

NC

95.5

DC

OK

79.2

LA

63.8

MS

 

AL

67.0

GA

80.9

HI

62.4

TX

75.6

FL

86.3