The actions taken by states vary. California limited its annual pension payouts, while Kentucky raised retirement ages and suspended pension increases. Illinois reduced benefits for new employees and cut back on automatic pension increases. New Jersey last year increased employee retirement.

Nowhere have the changes been as sweeping as in Rhode Island, where public sector unions are suing to block an overhaul passed last year. The law raised retirement ages, suspended pension increases for years and created a new benefit plan that combines traditional pensions with something like a 401(k) account.

“This saved $4 billion for the people of Rhode Island over 20 years,” said state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat who crafted the overhaul. “Rhode Island is leading the way. I expect others to follow, frankly because they have to.”