It's one of the biggest issues affecting every state --- unfunded pensions ---- but it’s a topic that is rarely discussed despite the real-life consequences.
The issue occasionally gets lip service when a city such Detroit, or the island of Puerto Rico, files bankruptcy.
Jonathan Williams of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) tells OneNewsNow that pension liabilities represent an “existential threat” to states and local governments for the next 20 to 30 years but the issue isn’t getting noticed.
“And if the media doesn't pay attention to this,” he warns, “state legislators are going to have to take the bull by the horn and draw attention to it themselves.”
ALEC releases an annual estimate of unfunded pension obligations in a report called Unaccountable and Unaffordable. The most recent publication shows the numbers are massive --- and growing.
"This year, every man, woman, and child in America owes more than $18,000 to pay off the unfunded pension obligations just in state-overseen plans at the 50-state level," explains Williams. "The number overall is just about $6 trillion that state and local governments owe on these unfunded pension obligations."
He stresses that this is not a red state versus blue state issue, though he contends that conservative states have done a better job of tackling the issue.
“But there's a whole lot of conservative red-states on this list,” Williams adds, “that have a lot of work yet in front of them to be able to make taxpayers and pensioners and retirees whole."
Meanwhile, Williams isn't ruling out the possibility of seeing a push for a federal bailout of some states, which he calls a “horrible” policy that rewards states for doing the “wrong things.”