Touching the untouchables: Pensions and benefits

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Promise you won't yawn? We need to talk teacher pensions.

Though long overdue, some states are finally acknowledging the fact that their public pension systems are egregiously underfunded. In Oklahoma, for instance, the struggling pension program there won't be getting its annual $35 million obligatory payment from its State Board of Education. Due to the state's budget crunch, the legislature 'removed' (wink, wink) the annual requirement imposed on the Board.

With the flexibility to then use that money as it saw fit, the Board of Ed decided to pay its escalating health care bill instead (a morass comparable to that of pensions). The pension board is deciding if it will sue.

Meanwhile, retirement benefits all over the country are taking it in the neck.

Colorado and Minnesota are being sued for cutting annual cost of living increases for already retired state and municipal workers. And then there's New Jersey, called out by the SEC for pension fraud. The state claimed it had been properly funding public workers' pensions when, in actuality, it was not.

According to a study by the Pew Center on the States (link),there is currently a $1 trillion gap between what states have promised workers in terms of pension, health care, and other benefits and the dollars they have on hand.