Two recessions since 1999 — one of which was the longest since the Great Depression — forced a record 43 states over three years to cut costs by reducing pension benefits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States reduced estimated assets in 126 pensions to 77% of projected liabilities in 2010 from 103%, according to data in the report cited from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. Legislation to reduce pension benefits was rare before 2005, says Ron Snell, a director at NCSL. From there 10 states made changes in 2009, 21 states in 2010, and 32 in 2011. Some states made changes more than once. States were reluctant to switch from pensions to defined-contribution plans over concern about how much it would cost, according to the report.

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