| August 4, 2011

Institute Says Oklahoma Needs $10.5 Billion to Pay Its Bills

On June 27, 2011, the Chicago-based Institute for Truth in Accounting (IFTA) announced completion of a comprehensive study of all 50 states’ assets and liabilities, including pension and retirement health care obligations. Oklahoma is ranked 30th among the states (with first the most desirable, and 50th the least, in the institute’s assessment).

The study reviewed each state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) to offset assets against liabilities. For the first time, a detailed analysis of pension and health care liabilities uncovered the states’ actual obligations. From these calculations, the Institute was able to determine the taxpayers’ burden.

The study determined that six states had a per-taxpayer burden exceeding $20,000. The taxpayer burden represents the funds that will be needed to pay the commitments the state has already accumulated divided by the state’s taxpayers.

“If governors and legislatures had truly balanced each state’s budget, no taxpayer’s financial burden would exist,” said Sheila Weinberg, IFTA’s founder and CEO. “A state budget is not balanced if past costs, including those for employees’ retirement benefits, are pushed into the future.”

The study found that only four states (Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) have assets available to pay their debt and obligations related to pension and retirees’ health care.

In IFTA’s analysis, Oklahoma would need $10,529,554,000 to pay its bills, based on the 2009 CAFR. This translates into a burden of $10,000 per taxpayer.

Oklahoma’s position appears to have improved due to significant pension-reform legislation in the 2011 legislation session. Those changes in law shifted the state’s unfunded liabilities by several billion dollars, state leaders estimate.


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