In much of the country, public pension funding has been one of the most persistent public policy problems. For years, many state governments have failed to make necessary investments in their retirement system, resulting in funding gaps that increasingly present a looming reckoning for taxpayers.

According to a recent report published by The Pew Charitable Trusts, a public policy think tank, many states are now taking earnest measures to reduce their pension funding gap. These measures include increased contributions, cost reduction strategies, and more sophisticated pension management tools. States have also benefited from once-in-a-generation investment returns following the COVID-19 market crash in March 2020.

Still, based on 2019 data, the most recent year of available comprehensive data, the majority of states have a funding shortfall of 25% or more.

With $15.1 billion in assets against $17.9 billion in pension obligations, Maine's 84.3% funding ratio is the second highest in the Northeast, trailing only New York, and 11th highest among all states.

Some 30.5% of Maine's pension assets -- the largest share -- are invested in public equity and less than half a percent is in cash. However, investment returns were lower than expected this year, yielding returns of 26.5% in the fiscal year ended June 2021, trailing the fund's 27.4% benchmark.

All pension funding data used in this story was compiled by The Pew Charitable Trusts and is for 2019. We also considered public-sector, state-level employment, both in raw numbers and as a share of overall employment, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

RankStatePension funding ratioPension assets ($, billions)Pension liabilities ($, billions)State government employees
1Wisconsin103.0%112.1108.989,800
2South Dakota100.1%12.512.517,300
3Tennessee98.2%41.141.895,500
4Washington96.3%100.9104.8142,700
5New York96.1%215.2223.9254,600
6Idaho94.6%17.718.830,100
7Nebraska93.1%15.216.342,500
8Utah91.7%35.238.481,200
9North Carolina88.4%101.4114.6196,100
10Iowa85.4%34.840.767,100
11Maine84.3%15.117.924,600
12Delaware83.4%10.212.232,200
13West Virginia83.4%15.919.146,900
14Minnesota82.2%70.886.198,900
15Oklahoma80.7%33.241.179,700
16Oregon80.2%70.287.541,300
17Arkansas80.0%28.635.776,200
18Ohio80.0%168.4210.5168,000
19Georgia78.7%95.6121.6162,500
20Florida78.2%163.9209.5246,400
21Missouri77.8%59.977.0100,200
22Virginia77.2%79.8103.3157,300
23Nevada76.5%44.357.940,200
24Wyoming76.5%9.011.813,600
25Montana72.5%11.916.427,400
26California71.9%474.3659.4521,600
27Maryland71.6%54.375.8108,100
28Kansas69.9%20.629.550,700
29North Dakota69.8%5.98.421,400
30Alabama69.4%38.555.5117,000
31Texas69.0%186.8270.7426,400
32Indiana68.6%30.844.9108,900
33Alaska67.4%15.222.622,500
34New Mexico67.3%29.243.453,700
35Louisiana66.9%36.854.986,800
36Colorado66.5%51.877.9126,600
37New Hampshire65.5%9.214.122,400
38Arizona65.2%49.976.689,800
39Vermont63.7%4.57.117,800
40Mississippi61.7%28.646.457,400
41Michigan61.1%65.0106.4178,800
42Massachusetts59.4%58.398.1122,600
43Pennsylvania58.0%89.8154.8148,600
44South Carolina55.4%32.358.3103,500
45Hawaii54.9%17.231.467,000
46Rhode Island54.5%6.612.120,400
47Kentucky44.6%24.053.790,800
48Connecticut44.4%32.072.171,000
49New Jersey39.7%82.3207.1138,700
50Illinois38.9%92.6237.9147,000