By Jason Stein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Madison— Thanks in great part to a fully funded pension system, Wisconsin taxpayers bear a lighter debt load than almost any other state in the country, according to one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind.

The state’s long-term obligations were the fourth lowest in the nation when they were measured as a share of the income that Wisconsin residents make each year, according to the new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Only South Dakota, Tennessee and Nebraska do better by that measure.

The Pew Center report released Tuesday is unique because it tries to account for all the money that the states owe to major creditors such as bondholders and public employees who are due to receive pension and health benefits on retirement.

It would take 4.8% of all the annual income made by Wisconsin residents to pay off these obligations, or just under one-third of the national average of 14.8%.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), a certified public accountant who closely follows state finance issues. “One of the things that Wisconsin can be proud of is that Republicans and Democrats here have been responsible about our pension system.”

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