Although it probably was not the first thing to come to mind, you could pay off Pennsylvania’s debt.
According to a report by the organization Truth in Accounting, the Commonwealth has $62 billion in unfunded obligations. Every taxpayer in Pennsylvania would have to pay $14,500 if the state were to pay off that obligation today. Incredibly, there are thirteen states that are in worse financial shape than the Commonwealth.
What sets Truth in Accounting’s analysis apart from other organizations is how they arrive at their final numbers. Rather than taking a state’s budget at face value, Truth in Accounting looks past the smoke and mirrors at the assets and liabilities each state has on the books. One of the biggest "off balance sheet" liabilities for Pennsylvania is a woefully underfunded pension.
According to the report:
"Unfunded employees’ retirement benefits represent 53% of State bills. These unfunded liabilities have accumulated because State employees have been promised $34 billion of pension benefits and $19.8 billion of retirees’ health care benefits, but the State has not adequately funded them.
"Unless these pension and retirees’ health care benefits are renegotiated, future taxpayers will be burdened with paying for these benefits without receiving any corresponding government services or benefits." (Emphasis added)
This harsh reality is something that CAP has frequently noted. Politicians from both parties have habitually made promises to government workers for generous retirement benefits. The problem is compounded because lawmakers write the rules governing how those liabilities are calculated. When times are tough, lawmakers have just not paid enough into the pension system to cover the liabilities.
Beyond the fear of government unions, the overwhelming majority of Representatives and Senators serving in Harrisburg are also enrolled in the pension system. They have a vested interest in maintaining the overly generous benefit levels that will eat up more and more tax dollars. This vested interest is one of the reasons why CAP insisted, beginning in 2012 that candidates seeking our support must opt out of the pension if elected.
If we are ever going to return to a citizen legislature, we have to start by electing people who are willing to serve without always looking toward the next election and increasing their pension payout. Career politicians have done well for themselves, and now taxpayers are left to foot the bill.
Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) is a non-profit organization founded to raise the standard of living of all Pennsylvanians by restoring limited government, economic freedom, and personal responsibility. By empowering the Commonwealth’s employers and taxpayers to break state government’s "Iron Triangle" of career politicians, bureaucrats, and Big Government lobbyists, this restoration will occur and Pennsylvania will prosper.
Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania | P.O. Box 6726 | Harrisburg | PA | 17112