Policy Documents

No. 126 The State Public Pension Crisis: A 50-State Report Card

April 1, 2010

Taxpayers in almost every U.S. state owe large and possibly unpayable retirement pensions to the men and women who work for the government. The deep recession of 2008-2009 has moved up the day of reckoning, requiring immediate action by many states to avoid financial catastrophe.

While no one doubts that the people who police the streets, teach school, fight fires, plan roads, and administer government benefits deserve fair compensation for their labors, current public policy almost everywhere grants many public employees overly generous pensions that pose a large and growing burden on taxpayers. Even as many private employers have reduced or eliminated traditional pensions, they remain the norm for state government workers.