Via D Magazine:
If you follow Dallas politics at all, the scope and scale of the impending Dallas Police and Fire Pension Crisis has probably sunk in by now. Even if you don’t quite grasp the finer details of the problem and the various plans to fix it, it is easy to see that the pension situation threatens to leave Dallas in a very precarious financial position.
This city is already struggling to keep its streets from degrading even further than they already are, and has a huge inventory of general maintenance and repair needs, plenty of underfunded or mismanaged departments, and a litany of other problems and issues. Thanks to the pension, Dallas could find itself in an even deeper financial hole if it is on the hook for contributing 34.5% of computation pay plus $11 million per year towards the pension, which is what State Rep. Dan Flynn’s remedy for the crises proposes.
The word “bankruptcy” has been floated around. But even if it doesn’t come to that, a severe tightening of the municipal belt buckle could impact even the basic services we take for granted.
That’s the scary news for Dallas. Perhaps what’s scarier is that Dallas isn’t alone.
Across the United States, municipalities and states are struggling with similar unfunded liability crises regarding pensions and civil service retirement packages. For example, Los Angeles is facing $15 billion in debt for its public safety, water, power workers, and general employees pension. In South Carolina, a state plan that serves one in nine South Carolina residents is looking at a $24.1 billion shortfall. Philadelphia woke up last year to the fact that its municipal pension was $5.7 billion in the red. The state of Oregon’s pension is underfunded by $22 billion. Late last year, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation published a report that looked at the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Crisis in light of the situation in other Texas cities. The report found that Texas municipalities owe $18 billion in pension debt.
All told, by some estimates, state and local governments in the United States are looking at a cumulative total of over $5 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities.