The municipal bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., might be viewed as a cautionary tale for other cities that fail to get a handle on their pension costs.

There's no debate that cities around the country are facing budget pressures because of the slow economic recovery and that the annual contributions required to meet future pension liabilities are a huge part of the problem, siphoning away money needed to pay for essential services. Unfortunately, there's often no easy way to change the pension contribution equation.

"Bankruptcy can't always help," said Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership at George Mason University.

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