The Legacy of Pension Debt: Pay More, Get Less

Pennsylvania's pension debt stands at $63 billion or more than $4,900 per resident. It's a big number to be sure, but what does it mean for the average Pennsylvanian? What does it mean for lawmakers struggling to close budget gaps?

We've broken down the pension debt by state agency to show how many tax dollars are being diverted from services and taxpayers to personnel costs.

For instance, the share of pension debt for corrections officers is $3.3 billionabout $1 billion more than this year's entire corrections budget. Human services personnel account for about $2.3 billion in pension liabilities. Likewise, the state currently has a $1.7 billion obligation to transportation workers.

These obligations will command a large portion of future tax dollars, which means state government will be providing fewer services at a higher cost to taxpayers. Any system that charges taxpayers more to provide people with less is broken.

State workers deserve a decent retirement, but many may not see one unless the current unsustainable system is reformed. If pension reform isn't taken up soon, pension payments will be reduced again and eventually deteriorating finances will cause retirees and current workers will lose benefits.

Pension reform that protects benefits from politics isn't just fiscally prudent; it's about making our government work for all Pennsylvanians.