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Bid to fix pension plans loses in W. Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Voters on Saturday rejected Gov. Joe Manchin’s attempt to repair West Virginia’s ailing retirement system by selling up to $5.5 billion in bonds.

With 87 percent the state’s 1,965 precincts reporting, about 53 percent of voters had rejected the pension bond measure, compared to 47 percent in support.

The constitution required an amendment for Democrat Manchin’s plan to devote bond proceeds to the state’s pension plans – including its teachers pension, one of the worst-funded public pension plans in the country.

The defeat leaves in place a 40-year payment plan that relies on ballooning outlays from the state budget to aid the pension plans.

This year’s payment will take about $350 million from general revenue.

West Virginia is not alone in its pension woes: The 127 state and local plans tracked by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators suffer from a combined shortfall of $279 billion.

In the case of West Virginia and 12 other states, unfunded pension liabilities exceed the state budget.