The more than $4.19 trillion of debt racked up by U.S. state governments would cost every person in the country $13,425 to pay off, according to a report released on Tuesday.
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But the average per capita debt level is down from $13,754 last year.
In its 2012 report, State Budget Solutions, a nonpartisan advocate for reform, said debt per capita was the highest in Alaska at $31,141 and the lowest in Nebraska at $4,249. Other high debt-per-capita states were New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii and Illinois, while Tennessee, Indiana, Florida and Idaho rounded out the states with the lowest levels, the report said.
"It is the individuals and families who will ultimately bear this horrific financial burden if state governments do not get their budgets under control,'' said Bob Williams, the group's president, in a statement.
State debt loads grew as the 2007-2009 economic recession depressed core revenue sources and investment returns for public retirement systems, while the ranks of jobless workers grew along with demand for state services. To deal with the problem, states have slashed spending, increased taxes and adopted reforms to their pensions.
The report included states' budget deficits, outstanding bonds and leases, unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liabilities, and federal unemployment trust fund loans.