LePage Exempts Own Pension From Budget Cuts

teachers and public employees protest pension cutacks - MSEA-SEIU photo

One of the tough things about writing a newspaper column after having blogged for a while is the distressing lack of hypertext. Words have to stand on their own, rather than being butressed by photos, videos and links to sources.

So I'm going to use this opportunity to provide some linked context to today's Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel column on LePage's decision to exempt himself from cutbacks to the pensions of teachers and other public employees, and how the money the state saves from these cutbacks is to be used to reduce taxes for Maine's wealthiest residents.

MRSA Title 2 spells out the governor's pension and other benefits and Title 5 governs other state employees' benefits. They all currently pay the same 7.65% pension contribution. Part S of LePage's budget changes Title 5, but leaves Title 2 alone, which means that LePage's pension contributions will stay the same even as they are increased for other public employees. Title 2 also describes how LePage will be eligible for a pension worth 3/8ths of his salary as soon as he leaves office.

The numbers for teachers pensions based on length of service came from the MainePERS Report to the Legislature on Pension Costs.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting did some great work on confidential employees, and how their contribution level increases to 3.65% under the proposed budget, but not to the 9.65% level slated for teachers and other unionized public employees.

For tax cut numbers and impact, I relied on an excellent budget analysis from the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Thanks to all the folks in and out of govement who helped me to understand how these various statutes and the budget interact.

Update: It's been pointed out to me that Article V, part 6 of the state Constitution prohibits LePage from changing his own compensation while in office, which might prevent him from making satutory changes to his own pension contribution if that falls under compensation. Even if this clause applies, which it's not clear that it does, it wouldn't prevent LePage from increasing his contribution voluntarily and making the change permanent for his successors.