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West Virginia improves its public pension ranking

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The country’s public employee pension funding shortfall is set to eclipse $1 trillion, according to new research from the Pew Charitable Trust, but the study has found that states like West Virginia have made significant moves since the 2008 recession to close that gap.

According to the report, released Tuesday and presented to state retirement officials on Wednesday, West Virginia has dramatically improved its pension funding rank over the last decade, moving from dead last in 2003 to 27th in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.

During that time frame, the state’s funding ratio has increased, from 40 percent to 67 percent, good for a spot at the middle of the 50-state ranking.

Despite the improvement, West Virginia’s pension system is still lacking by industry standards with more money still being promised to workers than what is available.

In 2013, the state had $16.7 billion in pension liabilities, more than $5 billion of which was unfunded. Most experts believe pension systems need to be funded at least 80 percent to be considered healthy. The national average comes in only at 71 percent.

Still, recognition for its improvements is seen as a good mark by state retirement officials. West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board executive director Jeffrey Fleck said Wednesday he was proud to report favorable news for once…

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