By Samantha Marcus | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 20, 2017 at 6:14 PM, updated April 21, 2017 at 8:14 AM
TRENTON — Another study has found New Jersey’s public pension system is in the worst shape of any state in the nation.
The state’s pension woes helped boost how much money public pension systems across the U.S. have on hand versus how much they need to pay for future benefits to $1.1 trillion in 2015, the Pew Charitable Trusts said in its annual accounting of nationwide pension debts.
The figure, known as the unfunded liability, may hit $1.3 trillion in 2016, once the complete data for all 230 public-sector retirement plans becomes available, the study, released Thursday, found.
“Investment returns that fell short of expectations proved to be the largest contributor to the worsening fiscal position, with median overall returns of 3.6 percent,” Pew’s researchers said.
Pension plans in the 50 states added $157 billion in new unfunded liabilities from 2014 to 2015, though much of the increase was driven by the notoriously unstable pension funds in just five states — New Jersey, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
From 2014 to 2015, the year Pew reviewed, New Jersey’s pension debt rose from $113.1 billion to $135.7 billion.
The Garden State held enough assets to cover just 37.5 percent of its liabilities in 2015, enough to earn the title of worst-funded in the U.S.
It’s the second report putting New Jersey at the bottom. A Bloomberg study did the same in November. In 2014, New Jersey was No. 48 in the Pew study, with Kentucky and Illinois in worse shape.