GOP lawmaker targets state pension transparency with new bill

A Republican lawmaker Monday reintroduced a bill to bolster transparency for state and local government pensions.

The Public Employee Pension Transparency Act (PEPTA), authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), would force state and local governments to publish on a searchable website their pension liabilities. Those that don't would lose the ability to offer tax-free bonds.

“Many state and local pension funds are hiding vast debts through accounting gimmicks,” said Nunes. “The taxpayers—who will be forced to pay off these enormous debts if pension systems go insolvent—have a right to know the true condition of these pension plans, and the systems’ participants need to know how secure their benefits are.”

Several states have recently struggled with massive pension liabilities. Illinois is facing a $110 billion pension shortfall, while New Jersey faces a burden of up to $113 billion. 

Public pension liabilities also contributed to Puerto Rico's $70 billion debt crisis. The commonwealth has already defaulted on debt payments, and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Ryan: Americans want to see Trump talking with Dem leaders Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Wis.) has given lawmakers until the end of March to find a solution.

"The fact that public pension debt helped spur the Puerto Rican debt crisis should serve as a warning of the devastating effects that can result from underfunded pension systems," said Nunes.