The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

June 20, 2012
California's pension gap widened in 2010, research center says

California's public retirement systems' pension obligations were a combined $112 billion beyond the value of their assets in 2010, according to a report released this week, with anticipated retiree health costs adding another $77 billion in unfunded liabilities.

The study issued by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pew Center for the States, says that the combined pension and health costs are both a cause for serious concerns.

California's total long-term retirement and health costs two years ago totaled $593.7 billion, according to data collected by Pew, but the funds paid just 75 percent of the recommended contribution into pension plans and 29 percent of what the state should have paid to fund retiree health benefits.

Experts generally agree that healthy pension funds keep their unfunded liabilities to 20 percent or less.

Nationally, states continued to lose ground in 2010 to cover the long-term costs. In fiscal 2010, states fell a combined $1.38 trillion short of having saved enough to pay their long-term retirement bills, up 9 percent from the year before.

Pew found that only Wisconsin had fully funded its pension plan in 2010 and that 34 states were below the 80 percent threshold.

Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, and Rhode Island, with pensions funded under 55 percent in 2010, were the nation's pension funding cellar dwellers.

Along with Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Dakota and Washington were the best off, with pensions funded at 95 percent or better in 2010.

The National Public Pension Coalition, a union-backed organization, issued a statement this morning that downplays the 2-year-old data, which was the latest available to Pew researchers.

"To the detriment of all public employees and all of our communities," coalition director Jordan Marks said in the press release, 'The Widening Gap Update' uses data from fiscal year 2010 and will undoubtedly be used by organizations and individuals like the Koch Brothers and Arnold Foundation to advance their own agendas against public employees."

We've embedded the California summary sheet below.
Pew Pensions Update California Fact Sheet

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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