Based on government accounting rules, public pensions were underfunded by about $885 billion in 2011, which certainly indicates a major public pension crisis. But the real numbers are much worse than that. Public pensions are allowed to use far laxer rules in determining future liabilities than private pensions are allowed. This means they need far less money on hand to satisfy accounting standards. As logic would tell, saying you have enough money to meet future expenses is far different from actually having the money.
State Budget Solutions has released a detailed analysis of public pension liability and calculates that if public pension had to calculate liability in the same way that private pensions do, that total unfunded public pension liabilities in 2011 were $4.6 trillion and are about 41% funded, far below what they need.