We hear a lot of talk about the ballooning federal deficit.

But what about the financial commitments the Hawaii state government has made to public employees?

The state of Hawaii is required to balance its annual budget. But it’s on the hook for pension and health-care costs for retired public employees to the tune of more than $16 billion.

Today Civil Beat begins a two-part series examining how state officials are dealing with these unfunded liabilities.

Part 1: Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System

Two national studies have recently questioned the health of Hawaii’s state pension fund. But top fund administrators told Civil Beat that the authors of those studies never spoke with them, and refuted their claims that the pension system is in trouble.

The Employees’ Retirement System has a $6.2 billion unfunded liability, and is only 64.4 percent funded, but pension officials say the rate of contributions has been hiked enough to make up the gap.

Read an overview of the situation by Noelle Chun, a Q&A with top pension officials and a topic page providing background on the system.

Part 2: Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund

Hawaii taxpayers have a $10 billion bill coming due — and it could get bigger.

That’s how much extra money experts estimate it will take to pay for health benefits for state and county retirees in coming years. And things are only expected to get worse, because the state is committed to providing benefits but only has the money to meet its current obligations. Hawaii’s retiree health bill is one of the worst in the nation on a per-capita basis.

On Tuesday, read an article and in-depth topic page on the trust fund issue by Greg Wiles.

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