A Public Investment

Public workers and retirees make up 11 percent of the adult population of Hawai‘i. Nearly one out of every five adults aged 65 and older is a public worker retiree. Hawai‘i’s state and county governments employ more than 66,000 people who, if they meet eligibility requirements, will eventually receive pension and “other post-employment benefits” (OPEB) such as health insurance coverage in retirement. Over the years, Hawai‘i’s public retirement liabilities have grown as current and promised benefits have outpaced contributions and asset growth to cover them. These retirement costs are sometimes referred to as “unfunded liabilities,” which means that our obligations exceed the funds currently available to pay them.

In this report, we examine the public retirement benefits as a budgetary issue of interest to all Hawai‘i residents, and one that is crucial for policymakers to understand and address effectively. We also identify strategies available to meet public obligations responsibly and equitably.