Washington’s treasurer released a report earlier this month pointing to major pension-funding problems.

Underfunding of the state’s two closed pension plans for employees hired before 1977 has caused an unfunded liability of $6.9 billion, with the state owing $3.8 billion and local governments $3.1 billion, according to a statement by Treasurer James McIntire. 

McIntire said the average annual public pension is just under $20,500, with more than 96% of retirees getting annual benefits of $50,000 or less, while only 112 people get benefits in excess of $100,000 per year.

He added that the State Investment Board’s Combined Trust Fund investment returns since inception exceed 8% and its performance was among the top 1% of public pension funds in the country during the past 20 years.

Washington’s 10 other pension plans — which are open and accepting new employees — are funded at 118% of future liabilities, according to the treasurer.

McIntire said Washington led the nation in closing down its poorly funded, “California-style” high benefit plans in 1977.

The treasurer’s report comes after a report in August by the state actuary on the risks of the state’s pension policy.

“The actuary’s report makes it clear — underfunding is the core issue and it may well be time for the governor and Legislature to seriously consider amending the state constitution with a funding plan,” McIntire said.

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