When last I checked in on Maine's new teabagging governor, he wanted to repeal the state regulation that prevented using toxic chemical bisphenol-A in baby bottles. (Says there was no "science" behind the ban.)
Now, under Paul LePage's proposed budget, teachers and other state employees will be required to increase their contributions to the pension system, from 7.65 percent of their salary to 9.65 percent. Of course, the teabagger governor has exempted himself! And is this to build up the state's pension system? Nope. It's to pay for $203 million in tax cuts for Maine residents in the top 10% income and estate brackets.
While public employees and teachers face this increase, as well as a raise in the retirement age, a freeze on cost-of-living adjustments for current retirees and a 2 percent cap on future cost of living increases, LePage's personal contribution rate to the retirement system will remain the same, which means he'll be paying $21,420 over four years.
If LePage faced the same increase as state employees, it would cost him $5,880 over his term.
Unlike teachers and state employees, however, the size of the governor's pension doesn't depend on how long he pays into the system. As soon as he leaves office, he'll begin receiving a three-eighths of his salary, which works out to $26,600 annually.
For comparison, a Maine teacher would have to work for more than 25 years to receive this level of benefits.
Confidential employees, those that are not represented under union collective bargaining, also are not seeing their salary contributions increased to the same rate. They'll continue to pay just 3.65 percent of their salary to the pension fund. At the same time that most employees are to be forced to increase their contributions, the state will reduce the amount it pays into the retirement fund.
Maine currently contributes 5.5 percent of an employee's salary, less than the 6.2 percent it would have to pay if these workers were enrolled in Social Security rather than the more efficient state pension system.
It is difficult, then, to take LePage seriously when he says, "I know some teachers and retirees are struggling, but we need honest and shared solutions to solve our pension problem," as he did last week, or when his spokesperson talked about "shared sacrifices" as they announced the budget.