Stanford University’s Pension Tracker Pegs Total California Pension Debt at $1 trillion or $93,000 Per California Household in 2015, Up 19% from 2014

by David Kersten

Stanford University’s pension tracker database pegs the market value of California’s total pension debt at $1 trillion or $93,000 per California household in 2015.  (see SIEPR video above for a quick summary of the database and how to use it)

In 2014, California’s total pension debt was calculated at $77,700 per household, but has increased dramatically in response to abysmal investment returns at California’s public pension funds that hover at or below zero percent annual returns.

The Pension Tracker database (www.pensiontracker.org) is maintained by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and is intended to help localize pension data by providing the ability to look up the market value of pension debt in any locality in California.

The database also provides a comparison of all 50 states, which finds that California has the second highest pension debt in the nation at $92,748 in pension debt per household in 2015.  Alaska came in at #1 with $110,538 in pension debt.

Pension Tracker was recently created by Stanford Professor Joe Nation and a team of graduate students and researchers at SIEPR.  According to the New York Times, through the work of SEIPR and the creation of Pension Tracker, California is the only state in the nation that provides access to the market value of pension liability on a local basis.

Pension Tracker recently added the 2015 data, and plans to also add data for 2016 and 2017 when it becomes available.  The market value of California pension debt is expected to likely exceed $100,000 per household in 2016, based on recent market calculations.

Nation says Pension Tracker is also slated to include data on unfunded liabilities for “other post employment benefit” obligations, which is mostly retiree health care costs.

OPEB obligations are “yet another albatross around California’s neck,” Nation states, noting that in some cases unfunded OPEB obligations exceed unfunded pension liabilities.

The Pension Tracker database is located at www.pensiontracker.org.  For the 50-state comparison figures visit: http://us.pensiontracker.org/  or click on the USA tag on the first page.

David Kersten is the president of the Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy.  Kersten recently formed the Hiram Johnson Center for the Public Interest to focus on the restoration of accountability and financial stability to government in the United States.