It's a problem so great that Fortune magazine recently described it as "a time bomb quietly ticking away in the netherlands of state and local government, and it is set to blow up in the next few years. When it detonates, the damage will easily run into the hundreds of billions of dollars – forcing tax hikes and public service cuts that will affect the lives of millions of Americans unless dramatic action is taken soon."
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Some governments are preparing for the accounting change by hiring actuaries to estimate the size of their benefits liabilities. One expert who has been running the numbers told Fortune that, when he shares the results with clients, they are "shocked, simply shocked."