Pennsylvania Government Debt

MARCH 21, 2012 | Policy Points by COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION

Today, Pennsylvanians owe $121 billion in state and local government debt.  This equates to more than $9,400 for every person, and almost $38,000 for the average family of four in the commonwealth—an increase of $10,300 since 2002.

  • This total represents debt in the form of government bonds, but excludes unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities for government workers, borrowing for unemployment compensation, and short-term tax anticipation notes, which add tens of billions more in obligations for Pennsylvania taxpayers.
Pennsylvania State & Local Government Debt
Debtor Debt Outstanding Per Person
Total State $45,020,310,000 $3,533
   State $10,356,710,000 $813
   State Agencies & Authorities $34,663,600,000 $2,720
Total Local $75,759,706,000 $5,945
   School Districts $26,618,928,378 $2,089
   County/Municipal/Twp/Other $49,140,777,622 $3,856
Total  $120,780,016,000 $9,478
Sources: Governor's Executive Budget (http://www.budget.state.pa.us) December 2011 data; PA Dept of Education (http://www.pde.state.pa.us) June 2010 data; U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/govs/www/estimate.html) 2009 data

State Debt

Since 2002, total outstanding state general obligation debt increased 54%, from $6.8 billion to $10.3 billion.

  • Annual debt payments on general obligation bonds increased from $349 million in FY 2002-03 to $1.1 billion in the proposed FY 2012-13 budget, an increase of 198% in annual debt payments in nine years.

State Agencies' & Authorities' Debt

More than three-fourths of Pennsylvania's state-level borrowing is done by off-budget state agencies and authorities, like the Turnpike Commission and the Commonwealth Financing Authority, which issue their own debt to the extent authorized by the legislature.

  • Debt held by state agencies and authorities increased from $16.8 billion in 2002 to nearly $34.7 billion in 2011—an increase of 106%.
  • Total Pennsylvania state and state agencies' and authorities' debt increased from $23.7 billion to more than $45 billion in the last nine years—representing a total state-level increase of 90%.
Pennsylvania State, State Agencies' & Authorities' Debt
Debtor Debt Outstanding 2002 Debt Outstanding 2011 Increase Change
State $6,805,184,000 $10,356,710,000 $3,551,526,000 52%
State Agencies & Authorities $16,848,800,000 $34,663,600,000 $17,814,800,000 106%
Total State $23,653,984,000 $45,020,310,000 $21,366,326,000 90%
Sources: Governor's Executive Budget (http://www.budget.state.pa.us) December 2011 data

School District Debt

Pennsylvania taxpayers are also experiencing an increase in debt at the school district level. 

  • According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school district debt increased from $19.4 billion in 2002 to $26.6 billion in 2010—an increase of 38%.

County, Municipal, Township, & Special District Debt

Other local government debt—debt held by counties, cities, townships, boroughs, and special districts—represents more than 40% of all taxpayer debt in the Commonwealth.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent data (2009), county, municipal, township, and special district debt increased from $45 billion in 2002 to $49 billion in 2009—an increase of 9%.
Pennsylvania School District, County, Municipal, Township, Special District Debt
Debtor Debt Outstanding 2002 Debt Outstanding 2010 Increase Change
School Districts $19,351,014,152 $26,618,928,378 $7,267,914,226 38%
County/Municipal/Twp/Other $44,943,251,000 $49,140,777,622 $4,197,526,622 9%
Total Local $64,294,265,152 $75,759,706,000 $11,465,440,848 18%
Sources: PA Dept of Education (http://www.pde.state.pa.us) June 2010 data; U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/govs/www/estimate.html) 2009 data

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For more information on the Pennsylvania State Budget, visit www.CommonwealthFoundation.org/Budget.

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