20 Best & Worst States for Pension Funding

After the Great Recession, some state public employees find their retirement plans imperiled while others are doing fine

From the California redwoods to the Rhode Island coast, the sorry state of many public pensions funds has been in the news since the market crashed in 2008.

State and municipal workers who were assured of guaranteed benefits find their retirement plans in peril as they fight a rising tide of anger from politicians and the public.

In California, proposed changes to CalPers, the largest state pension fund in the country, have been fought by unions who argue their collective bargaining rights are being broken. In Rhode Island, workers in the small town of Central Falls saw the Legislature slash their benefits. And in Detroit, where the city has filed for bankruptcy protection, workers are fighting pension changes in the courts.

Taxpayers everywhere are concerned about whether they will be on the hook to make up for losses incurred by pension funds. In Illinois, lawmakers have been wrestling with how to shore up the fund for two years.

We decided to take a look at how the best and worst states’ public pension funds are faring. We ranked them from the worst to the best based on the percentage of liability that is funded.

We also looked at the dollar amount of unfunded liability and three categories­: Debt & Pensions, State Debt and Unfunded Pensions, expressed as per capita share. A fourth category shows the liability as a percentage of personal income.

The data is from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings as rendered by CNBC.com.

Check out the 20 Best & Worst States for Pension Funding:

 10 WORST STATES

Moon over Chugach Mountains in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo: AP)10. ALASKA: 61.9%

Unfunded Liability: $4 billion 
Debt & Pensions:
$12,363
State Debt:
$2,564
Unfunded Pensions:
$9,799
% of Personal Income:
27.1

Colorado state capitol building.9. COLORADO: 60%

Unfunded Liability: $22.9 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$4,996
State Debt:
$518
Unfunded Pensions:
$4,478
% of Personal Income:
11.3

Wichita, Kansas(tie) 6. KANSAS: 59.2%

Unfunded Liability: $9.2 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$4,402
State Debt:
$1,188
Unfunded Pensions:
$3,214
% of Personal Income:
10.8

Hula dancer in Hawaii.(tie) 6. HAWAII: 59.2%

Unfunded Liability: $8 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$9,878
State Debt:
$3,947
Unfunded Pensions:
$5,931
% of Personal Income:
23.0

Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island.(tie) 6. RHODE ISLAND: 59.2%

Unfunded Liability: $4.3 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$5,901
State Debt:
$1,746
Unfunded Pensions:
$4,156
% of Personal Income:
13.5

New Hampshire, Flume Gorge Bridge.5. NEW HAMPSHIRE: 57.4%

Unfunded Liability: $4.3 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$3,762
State Debt:
$532
Unfunded Pensions:
$3,230
% of Personal Income:
8.2

Mardi Gras in New Orleans. (Photo: AP)4. LOUISIANA: 56.2%

Unfunded Liability: $18.5 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$5,205
State Debt:
$1,158
Unfunded Pensions:
$4,046
% of Personal Income:
13.5

Connecticut state capitol building.3. CONNECTICUT: 55%

Unfunded Liability: $20.2 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$10,776
State Debt:
$5,131
Unfunded Pensions:
$56,45
% of Personal Income:
18.6

Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Photo: AP)2. KENTUCKY: 53.4%

Unfunded Liability: $23.6 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$7,322
State Debt:
$1,920
Unfunded Pensions:
$5,402
% of Personal Income:
21.5

View of Chicago from Lake Michigan. (Photo: AP)

Worst

1. ILLINOIS: 43.4% funded

Unfunded Liability: $82.9 billion
Debt & Pensions:
$9,056
State Debt:
$2,613
Unfunded Pensions:
$6,442
% of Personal Income:
20.7

 10 BEST STATES

A rider in the Tour de Wyoming. (Photo: AP)10. WYOMING: 85.6%

Unfunded Liability: $1 billion
Debt & Pensions: $1,982
State Debt: $63
Unfunded Pensions: $1,918
% of Personal Income: 4.2

 

Disney World in Florida. (Photo: AP)9. FLORIDA: 86.7%

Unfunded Liability: $18.9 billion
Debt & Pensions: $2,320
State Debt: $1,325
Unfunded Pensions: $995
% of Personal Income: 5.9

 

Idaho Potato Commission mascot, Spuddy Buddy. (Photo: AP)8. IDAHO: 89.9%

Unfunded Liability: $1.3. billion
Debt & Pensions: $969
State Debt: $147
Unfunded Pensions: $822
% of Personal Income: 2.9

 

Delaware flag.7. DELAWARE: 90.7%

Unfunded Liability: $787 million
Debt & Pensions: $3,265
State Debt: $2,398
Unfunded Pensions: $767
% of Personal Income: 7.9

 

Memphis, Tenn., at night.6. TENNESSEE: 91.5%

Unfunded Liability: $3.3 billion
Debt & Pensions: $847
State Debt: $318
Unfunded Pensions: $ 529
% of Personal Income: 2.3

 

The Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.5. NEW YORK: 92.7%

Unfunded Liability: $18.5 billion
Debt & Pensions: $3,548
State Debt: $2,593
Unfunded Pensions: $955
% of Personal Income: 6.9

 

A view of Seattle's Space Needle.4. WASHINGTON: 93.7%

Unfunded Liability: $4.1 billion
Debt & Pensions: $2,961
State Debt: $2,360
Unfunded Pensions: $601
% of Personal Income: 6.7

 

Raleigh, capitol of North Carolina.3. NORTH CAROLINA: 95.3%

Unfunded Liability: $3.8 billion
Debt & Pensions: $1,138
State Debt: $734
Unfunded Pensions: $404
% of Personal Income: 3.2

 

Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.2. SOUTH DAKOTA: 96.3%

Unfunded Liability: $288 million
Debt & Pensions: $513
State Debt: $163
Unfunded Pensions: $350
% of Personal Income: 1.2

 

Aerial view of Madison, WI.

Best

1. WISCONSIN: 99.9%

Unfunded Liability: $99 million
Debt & Pensions: $2.075
State Debt: $2,057
Unfunded Pensions: $17
% of Personal Income: 5.2

 

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