UALR Law Review
Public pensions are a problem. More than twenty-seven million people participate in state and local government pension plans. And those plans are in the hole trillions of dollars. This means that state and local governments are going to have to raise additional trillions in taxes (or shift those trillions away from schools, police, firemen, or other spending targets) to satisfy these obligations.
What can be done about such a large, seemingly intractable problem? A number of states have installed specific pension funding requirements within their constitutions. Most state constitutions contain some kind of balanced budget requirement, and a number of states, zeroing in on the scope and difficulty of the pension issue, have expanded those to include language explicitly imposing annual pension finding discipline. Unfortunately, even such specific attempts to counter this problem directly have not been very helpful in any state or jurisdiction.
Given the severity of the problem and the lack of progress anyone has had in addressing it, this article suggests that due to their structure, pensions are fatally flawed and should stop being offered. Part II elaborates on the size and scope of the nation's pension funding problem, which affects governmental entities of all kinds and threatens taxpayers everywhere. Part III lays out why this problem has been so difficult to solve and develops the idea that there are so many political, cultural, and even psychological factors weighing against the kind of action required that the change we need is unlikely to ever occur. Part IV recommends the straightforward solution identified above. It sets forth how such a solution would work-given the currently existing status of public pensions in America-and proposes the kind of prohibitory language that would suffice to solve the problem.
Chad J. Pomeroy, Can God Create a Rock So Heavy That He Cannot Lift It?: Outlawing Pensions under State Constitutions, 42 UALR L. Rev. 91 (2019).