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Protesters hold up signs at the Keep the Promise rally in Maryland, Monday, March 14, 2011, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

In states across the nation, there’s a war under way. Public employees, government officials, labor unions, and taxpayers are facing off to decide the fate of public pension systems at the local and state level.

If it sounds strange that taxpayers would have a say in the average government worker’s pension, consider this: in New York state, the salaries and benefits of state employees add up to $18.5 billion, which is a fifth of New York’s operating budget. And if there’s a gap in assets needed and available assets, that money has to come from somewhere.

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