Thursday, December 07, 2006

Illinois: Largest Pension Debt in the Nation at $42.2 Billion

Holy crap, that is a bad thing. Here is the link to the full report and here is the short version of the text -

Illinois: Largest Pension Debt in the Nation at $42.2 Billion

After decades of neglect, Illinois now has the greatest total unfunded pension liability in the nation. The debt affects everything from the revenue available to fund public services like education and healthcare, to the state's bond rating and ability to pursue capital improvement projects.

Illinois state government's funding of, or more accurately stated, failure to fund, its required pension contributions has generated significant interest lately, even receiving the attention of some candidates for public office and the media. This new found attention is welcome, because after decades of neglect, Illinois now has the greatest total unfunded pension liability in the nation. As Figure 1[see website below] below illustrates, Illinois' unfunded pension obligation dwarfs the next worst state, Ohio, by more than $11 billion, is significantly greater than the state of California, which has three times the population, more than three times the state budget and 310,000 more public employees than Illinois. Illinois unfunded pension liability is almost six times greater than the national average.


Jonathan Bean said...

Just makes you warm and fuzzy thinking about the state taking over pharmacy services for all state employees. There may be some government somewhere that could do it efficiently but Illinois ain't the place.

Let's see:

State lottery = money laundering scam
State pensions = raids that would land Wall Streeters in prison
State politicians (both parties) unkind to business, except cronies
State board of education in chaos (K-12)
College-age students = export to surrounding states

Hey, want to do business here?

Don said...

The dire state of Illinois’ pension system, coupled with what appears to be a looming recession – see, for example, the recent article in the NY Post entitled ‘Top-level insiders selling their stock’ at

to get an idea of what the next 12-24 months may hold – spells trouble, in all capital letters, for Illinois state workers, particularly those who are planning on retiring in the next few years.

By the way, there is a document available online, at

entitled ‘The Impact of Pension Funding On State Government Finances’ by J. Fred Giertz, an economics professor at UIUC, that helps to further enlighten those who are interested in understanding how economic downturns can wreak havoc on state retirement systems. Figures 3 and 4 in Giertz’s article are especially illuminating in this regard; Giertz notes that ‘[I]nvestment returns are the most important contributor to state pension funds, dominating employee and employer contributions. In fact, employee and employer contributions are largely offset by pension distributions to retirees.’ (Introduction, Paragraph 5)