Keywords: Public Pensions; States; Welfare; Federalism; Vested Rights.
The topic of this essay are some of the most challenging problems of pension system of United States, with special reference to public pension reform. In fact, the increasing unfunded pension liabilities of the States are compelling them to enact legislative measures aimed to reduce or impair public pension benefits so to limit the growing imbalance of their budgets. The problem is that the legitimacy of these measures has been usually challenged by public employees (and their Unions) before State Courts, on the basis of Pension Protection Clauses and Contract Clauses set by the Constitution of the States. So the constitutional guarantee of public pension benefits has been granted by States' Courts, according to vested rights doctrine. The effect is a structural difference in USA, between public pension system (strongly conditioned by State law) and private one (whose regulation is largely based on federal legislation), that gets really difficult any attempt to enact a general reform of public pension system.