"That means we've got assets, cash and assets in the bank of $5.1 billion. If it was 100 percent funded, we would have $9.6 billion," said Mike McKown, director of the state Budget Office. "If everybody retired today and we shut everything down, that's what we would need."
The state currently is trying to pay down that debt, and will be 100 percent funded by 2034 if all goes according to plan.
"In the '90s, we were in the 'teens percent funded,' " McKown said.
The state's public employees' retirement system is 77 percent funded, with an unfunded liability of $1.2 billion. McKown said the state also is on track to have that debt paid off, but anything around 80 percent funded is considered responsible.
The state's other pension programs are either overfunded, like the judges' retirement system, or very close to it. State trooper pension funds only lack a few million dollars from being 100 percent funded.
"Other states are going the opposite direction, because the recession has forced them to skip these actuarial payments," McKown said.
The most recent Moody's report is based on fiscal year 2011 figures, but the company plans to release 2012 numbers later this year. Moody's said 2012 state pension liabilities are larger than in 2011.
In 2011, ten states had pension debts at 100 percent or more of their annual revenues.
In addition to Illinois and Connecticut, Kentucky's pensions accounted for 141 percent of that state's budget. New Jersey's pension liabilities were 137 percent of its revenue, while Hawaii's pensions accounted for 132 percent.
McKown said spending down West Virginia's liability hasn't been easy. The state puts more than 10 percent of each year's general revenue budget into the teacher's retirement plan.
Prezioso said retirement plans are often the first thing on the table when lawmakers convene to hash out a yearly budget.
"Those are the things we take care of first. We've never had an argument over putting money into pension programs," he said.