That's how much North Carolina's unfunded liability for its state retiree health benefits has increased.
I wrote about this issue nearly a year ago, at that time the unfunded liability was $23.8 billion – calculated as of Dec. 31, 2005.
In a new actuarial report (pdf) I obtained from the state budget office, the unfunded liability has grown to $28.6 billion as calculated on Dec. 31, 2007. The report further projects this liability to grow to a staggering $50 billion by 2016 if lawmakers don't make any changes to the current system.
In short, this liability is the current dollar value of the health benefit obligations already earned by active state employees, state retirees, and inactive former state employees eligible to retire at some point in the future, amortized for the next 30 years.
Why is this important? If the state of North Carolina continues its current pay-as-you-go method, the amount of health benefits that will be owed annually to the states growing number of retired workers (including teachers) will reach unsustainable levels.
If you think lawmakers are struggling to balance the budget now, just wait.