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Tennessee Keeps Some Pension Promises, Breaks Others

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Tennessee has largely kept its state retiree pension promises, making it one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal state pension report.

A new study by the Pew Center on the States says that as of the end of 2010 the fiftey states were $1.38 trillion behind in payments to retiree pension and health care accounts.

In the report, Pew refers to Tennessee as a “solid performer” having paid about 90 percent of its pension obligations. However, the highly respected research organization says it's of "serious concern" that Tennessee has paid nothing toward its $2 billion retiree health care obligations.

Pew Senior Researcher David Draine says this is one fiscal problem the states can’t blame on the recession.

“The economic downturn made things worse, but this a problem a decade in the making. For the past 12 years states have been kicking the can down the road, failing to make the recommended contributions and raising benefits without figuring out how to pay for them.”

Of Tennessee’s neighbors, Pew says Kentucky is in the worst shape, now more $24 billion behind in its pension plan payments. North Carolina is in the best shape, having paid about 95 percent of that state’s pension obligations.

Mike Osborne is the News Director for WMOT and can be heard on-air daily.