Public employee pension systems are some of the largest financial liabilities on state government balance sheets. The 50 states have over $4.5 trillion in cumulative pension liabilities combined, roughly double the amount all 50 states spent in fiscal 2020. For years, state pension systems were woefully underfunded in much of the country, but according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, this trend may be reversing.

Driven by higher investment from both employees and employers, state pension systems have largely stabilized as of 2020. Since 2007, states across the country have more than doubled annual pension contributions, often cutting funding for other programs to do so.

Still, some states are better positioned to pay public sector employees in retirement than others. In Wisconsin, estimated pension liabilities totaled an estimated $118.7 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, the state's pension assets totaled $125.0 billion. Considering both assets and liabilities, Wisconsin's pension funding ratio is 105.3%, the highest in the country.

According to 2021 estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Wisconsin state government employs some 91,500 people, or 3.2% of the total private and public sector workforce in the state.

It is important to note that 2020 is the most recent year for which comprehensive state level data is available and that the recent market downturn has all but erased much of the financial gains states have made in recent years. Still, while markets are always susceptible to turmoil, improved policies have gone a long way to improving pension funding in much of the country.

All state pension data in this story was compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts using comprehensive annual financial reports from each state.

 

RankStatePension funding ratio (%)Total pension liabilities ($B)Total pension assets ($B)State gov. employment as share of workforce (%)
50Wisconsin105.3118.7125.03.2
49South Dakota100.012.312.34.0
48Tennessee98.142.741.93.0
47Utah96.640.439.05.0
46Washington95.1110.6105.14.2
45Nebraska91.817.015.64.2
44Idaho89.120.117.93.7
43North Carolina86.7119.0103.24.4
42New York86.2229.9198.12.7
41Delaware85.212.710.87.2
40Iowa82.942.134.94.3
39Maine82.518.415.13.9
38Ohio81.7213.3174.23.1
37West Virginia80.819.615.96.7
36Minnesota80.788.371.23.4
35Wyoming78.612.39.65.1
34Georgia77.3126.897.93.4
33Nevada77.060.746.72.9
32Oregon75.890.168.32.3
31Missouri75.479.559.93.5
30Arkansas75.336.827.76.0
29Florida74.5217.5161.92.7
28Virginia74.4106.779.43.9
27Oklahoma73.545.133.24.9
26California71.8689.9495.53.2
25Maryland69.978.654.94.2
24Colorado69.583.958.34.5
23Indiana69.045.031.13.6
22Texas67.5288.7194.93.3
21Alabama67.458.539.45.9
20Montana67.317.511.85.6
19Kansas66.331.120.63.6
18Alaska65.623.115.17.3
17Louisiana63.255.935.44.6
16Arizona61.980.249.63.0
15Michigan60.4108.265.44.1
14Mississippi59.147.828.25.0
13New Hampshire58.815.69.23.4
12Pennsylvania58.5160.093.62.5
11Vermont58.48.04.75.9
10Massachusetts55.9103.657.93.4
9North Dakota55.410.86.05.3
8Rhode Island54.212.16.64.0
7Hawaii53.232.717.411.5
6South Carolina51.760.431.35.0
5New Mexico50.055.827.96.6
4Kentucky44.654.824.44.7
3Connecticut42.674.631.84.3
2New Jersey38.4208.279.93.4
1Illinois37.5246.292.32.5