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After five years of opening California’s governments to the public, developing data-driven policy analysis, and educating citizens about how California governments work, the California Common Sense team is proud to announce our nationwide expansion to United States Common Sense.

Our mission remains the same, but we are excited to now provide data, open government resources, and analysis relevant to all 50 states and their local governments.

In addition to our CACS work, you can find our newly-enhanced nationwide research and data products at UScommonsense.org.

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California’s Unfunded Retiree Healthcare Liabilities

About This Visualization

Nationwide, numerous state and local governments have incurred massive unfunded retirement benefit liabilities, totaling trillions of dollars. These enormous liabilities have ushered in higher annual costs that have led to cuts to public services, and in the extreme cases, municipal bankruptcies. In recent years, retirement benefit plans have come under significant criticism for benefit increases, accounting gimmicks that hid true costs, and missed payments that resulted in the current public retirement benefit crisis.

Under the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) statements No. 43 and 45, many municipalities began reporting liabilities associated with their other post-employment benefits (OPEBs). OPEBs include any non-pension retirement benefit, but mainly include healthcare benefits. Typically, when public employees retire, they receive these healthcare benefits for the rest of their lives, or until they are eligible for Medicare. These newly updated figures reveal billions of dollars in chronically underfunded OPEB liabilities. Despite that fact, OPEBs have not received nearly the same scrutiny or sense of urgency as their pension benefit counterparts.

This visualization details California’s unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities. To begin, first select the entity types you wish to view in the visual (in the default, all but the state level are selected). The chart on the top shows the relative size of the unfunded liabilities for each entity. The table on the bottom provides the basic OPEB financial information for each entity. This includes the following variables.

OPEB Liability: Represents the prevent value of benefits that have been earned, but not yet paid, to current employees and retirees.

Assets: Represents the assets set aside to fund benefits payable in future years.

Unfunded Liability: Represents the OPEB liabilities that are not matched by assets (OPEB liabilities minus assets).

Funding Ratio: The percentage of OPEB liabilities matched by assets (assets divided by OPEB liabilities).

Selecting a circle in the chart on the top filters the bottom table to only show entities of the same type. Also, hovering over an entity in the table on the bottom will highlight the entity’s corresponding circle on the top.


Data Source: State and Local Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports 2007 to 2013. This data was initially collected as a part of California Common Sense’s report titled, “Surveying California’s Unfunded Retiree Healthcare Obligations”.

CACS is not responsible for the accuracy of data received from outside sources. Please email us at [email protected] if you believe you have found an error in the visualization.

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