NASRA Completes Review of State Pension Reforms
Section: Around the Nation

With assistance from the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators recently completed a comprehensive review of state pension reforms since the Great Recession. The report, Significant Reforms to State Retirement Systems, found this to be the greatest period of change in the history of public pensions. 

While there were no one-size-fits-all solutions, virtually every state made modifications to one or more of its retirement plans. The report includes individual state pages summarizing the changes in each plan, as well as an overview of themes across states, including:

Nearly every state reduced benefits, increased contributions, or both. Most did so while retaining the traditional pension plan: 
  • Thirty-six states increased the amount that employees are required to contribute to the pension plan.
  • Twenty-nine states increased eligibility requirements for retirement, which typically took the form of an increase in age, years of employment, or a combination of both to qualify for retirement.
  • Thirty states reduced cost-of-living adjustments. 

Most of the reforms transferred a higher share of the risk associated with providing retirement benefits from the state or local government to its employees. 

States overwhelmingly retained core features aimed at balancing the objectives of retirement security, workforce management and cost containment sought by stakeholders, namely: mandatory participation, employee/employer shared financing, pooled investments, lifetime benefit payouts, integrated survivor and disability benefits, and supplemental savings.

A number of state plans had self-adjusting features that did not require legislative changes, but nevertheless altered financing and benefit levels. In some cases, these automatic adjustments were more significant than legislative pension reforms.

Reforms enacted in one state were not necessarily appropriate for another. Generally, states made modifications to their pension plans commensurate with the extent of their fiscal issues, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the plan.

To view the report, visit