New Jersey became the state with the worst-funded public pension system in the U.S. in 2015, followed closely by Kentucky and Illinois.
The Garden State had $135.7 billion less than it needs to cover all the benefits that have been promised, a $22.6 billion increase over the prior year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Illinois’s unfunded pension liabilities rose to $119.1 billion from $111.5 billion.
The two were among states whose retirement systems slipped further behind as rock-bottom bond yields and lackluster stock-market gains caused investment returns to fall short of targets. The median state pension had 74.5 percent of assets needed to meet promised benefits, down from 75.6 percent the prior year. The decline followed two years of gains. The shortfall for states overall was $1.1 trillion in 2015.
New Jersey and Illinois’ pension liabilities have led to credit-credit rating cuts and higher borrowing costs relative to other governments. The Garden State 10-year bonds yield about 2.5 percent, or 0.8 percentage point more than top-rated debt and the second highest among 20 states surveyed by Bloomberg. Illinois pays the highest, 3.7 percent.