Unaccountable, Unaffordable 2017

by Thurston Powers, Elliot Young, Bob Williams & Erica York


Unaffordable and Unaccountable 2017 surveys the more than 280 state-administered public pension plans, detailing their assets and liabilities. The unfunded liabilities (the amount by which the present value of liabilities exceeds current assets) are reported using the investment return assumptions used by states, along with alternative measures more consistent with prudent risk management and more reasonable long-term market performance expectations. This report clearly illuminates the pervasive pension underfunding across the nation and details the assumptions and trends contributing to this crisis.

Absent significant reforms, unfunded liabilities of state-administered pension plans will continue to grow and threaten the financial security of state retirees and taxpayers alike. The fiscal calamity could be far deeper and prolonged than the Great Recession.