Our View on Public Pensions: Lavish Benefits Hurt States

Publication: USA Today

01/18/2011 - In the year since Chris Christie was sworn in as governor of New Jersey, he has become something of a celebrity, thanks to his frequent clashes with unionized public employees immortalized on YouTube. Now Christie's star might be fading — not because he's about to make a misstep, but because his routine is beginning to look a little more, well, routine.

In the past two weeks numerous other governors, many of them newly elected, have looked at their states' books and begun to act and sound a lot like Christie. Some are Republicans, such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. But Democrats are singing a similar tune. Andrew Cuomo of New York has already frozen government pay and talks of extensive spending cuts. California's Jerry Brown has proposed slashing a variety of government spending programs.

The fact is, the financial situation for many states is dire. Like the federal government, they are getting clobbered by rising health costs. Unlike the federal government, they have a massive problem of lavish retirement benefits for public employees. The Pew Center on the States estimates that state and local governments have promised $3.35 trillion in benefit plans and have underfunded these plans by $1 trillion.

Read the editorial Our View on Public Pensions: Lavish Benefits Hurt States in its entirety on the USA Today Web site.

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