Recent market declines have significantly diminished the asset value of state and local pension plans. Reported unfunded liabilities for these plans are estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. As a result, in the long term, these governments may need to make significant fiscal adjustments such as modifying employee benefits, or increasing contributions to plans. They may also alter investment strategies to attempt to maximize returns by assuming increased risk. Consequently, GAO was asked to examine: (1) who makes investment decisions for state and local defined benefit pension plans and what guides their decision making; (2) how plans allocate their assets and manage their investments; and (3) practices that plans are using to meet a range of challenges in governance, investment, or funding. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant literature, interviewed experts in pension and retirement systems, conducted a survey of state and local plans, and performed more detailed reviews of plans in seven states.
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