West Virginia's unfunded pension liability - estimated at $10 billion last year - is one of the highest per capita in the nation. But the state became a standout on the issue in a very different way last month when lawmakers approved legislation proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) - SB 469 - dedicating $30 million per year in personal income tax revenues to help pay down that pension debt.
"We've struggled for the last three or four years to find a solution," Tomblin said. "Now, as far as I know, we're the first in the country to address it."
Public pension analysts supported that claim.
"While many states struggle with similarly low funded ratios, only West Virginia has implemented a plan to bring the funded ratio of such a large accrued liability to 100 percent," said Lisa Heller, a senior analyst at Moody's Investor Service, echoing three others who said they knew of no other state that had devoted tax revenue to that end.
States have focused instead on shrinking their unfunded liabilities. Over the last three years, nearly every one has reduced retirement benefits for public employees. (STATELINE.ORG, STATE NET)
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