More Public Pensions Made Changes After Recession

January 18, 2013 ( An overview of how the 2008 economic downturn affected state and local government pensions finds an increase in the pace of retirement plan changes.

Forty-three states enacted major changes between 2009 and 2011, according to a report by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. The most common changes were to increase employee contributions and/or to establish a less generous tier of benefits for new hires.  

The analysis also found an increase in unfunded liabilities from $0.7 trillion in 2009 to $0.9 trillion in 2011; the value of pension assets remains at $2.7 trillion. The aggregate funded ratios of pension plans declined from 84% in 2008 to 75% in 2011 as investment losses have been phased in. Funded ratios are expected to rise to 82% by 2015.  

Written for elected officials, the overview includes a brief description of the work of an independent Pension Funding Task Force, established by the national associations and representing state and local governments, to develop policy guidelines for how employers should calculate the annual required contribution. The task force was established because the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued new pension accounting standards in 2012 that focus exclusively on how governments should account for pension benefit costs.  

The report may be downloaded from here.