Lawmaker seeks to take pension away from LePage if he doesn’t win second term

Troy R. Bennett/Bangor Daily News

Maine Senate Assistant Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, speaks during a press conference delivering the Democratic response to Gov. Paul LePage's State of the State address.

AUGUSTA — Assistant Democratic Senate Leader Troy Jackson wants Gov. Paul LePage to be the first governor to have to be elected to a second term to collect a state pension. The Aroostook County lawmaker says such a change is needed because the governor has cut back on pensions for state workers.

Jackson’s proposed legislation, LD 490, would amend Maine’s Constitution to require that a governor be elected to a second term before he or she could qualify for a state pension. The legislation would apply to any governor or spouse who leaves office after Jan. 1, 2012.

During a State and Local Government Committee hearing on the measure Monday, Jackson acknowledged that the bill targets LePage, who with the previous Republican-led Legislature passed state pension reforms that drew sharp opposition from state employees and retirees.

In testimony to the committee, Jackson said he wants to tighten a system in which, “someone could take the governor’s oath of office, serve one day, and then quit to receive a full pension.” But he’s asking for a constitutional amendment to affect a sitting governor, rather than seeking to apply changes in the future, because “at a time when Gov. LePage and others are asking state employees to sacrifice, even at the expense of their own pensions which were promised to them when they signed their contracts, the governor should be held to the same standard.”

After the Democrat from Allagash delivered his prepared testimony, Jackson and committee members spent a few minutes talking about fairness, with some questioning whether it’s fair to change the rules after the fact for LePage. Others questioned whether having different rules for legislators, state workers and the governor was fair.

Jackson told committee members that, by capping cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and increasing employees’ payments to the system, LePage had done the same thing to longtime state workers.

“It’s not personal against him,” Jackson told the Bangor Daily News by phone after the hearing. “It’s what he did to state employees and teachers who have no ability to make that up or change it. I categorically don’t think that’s fair. But that’s how the governor operated. He could have chosen to do that to himself last year when he did it to everyone else.”

Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, a member of the committee, said that LePage could not have “cut anybody’s pension without help from the Legislature. This was not a single act by one individual.”

Jackson’s bill prompted sharp criticism from two legislators who testified against it Monday.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, criticized the bill as a political assault that will make bipartisanship in Augusta more difficult.

“The retroactive provision only affects one person and I consider it punitive,” Evangelos testified. “I think it’s grossly unfair. … I think we have better things to do with our time.”

Rep. Brian Jones, D-Freedom, also blasted the bill, characterizing it as a “personal affront” that threatens to make the State House environment more “toxic.”

“This bill is a distraction, mere political tomfoolery that will serve no purpose but to inflame unnecessarily the tensions between the Legislature and the governor,” Jones said. “This is not responsible leadership of our state.”

By phone Monday, Jackson said that Evangelos and Jones didn’t serve in the previous Legislature, so they lack a historical perspective on his proposal. He also said that because the governor’s pension of just more than $26,000 per year would exceed that of most state employees, he believes the public should have a right to vote on whether being elected twice should be the standard.

As written, the bill would require a governor to serve two full terms, but Jackson said his intent is to set being elected to two terms as a benchmark.

“Basically, what I was saying was four years and one day,” he said.

Because he wants to amend the state Constitution, Jackson’s bill would have to pass the House and Senate with two-thirds majorities, then win support from a majority of voters in a statewide referendum. He told committee members that he would not want the bill to move forward if it did not include a constitutional amendment to make the change apply to LePage.

“I am not going to live in a LePage dictatorship,” Jackson said. “I’m going to do what I think is right. I don’t think stealing people’s retirement is fair. I didn’t try to sugarcoat it in the committee.”

LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor had not yet reviewed Jackson’s bill.

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Comments

AL PELLETIER's picture

Our country is in a sorry state of affairs.

Since Lepage took office virtually every State program has been cut. State worker pensions have been effected. Voter approved bonds have been withheld. Taxes have gone up. New laws are currently being held hostage to the governors wants and wishes. Missing mural, women with little beards, kiss by butt remarks, door slamming, name calling, nepotism, and on and on.
For all this negative national attention, for stalling and stopping state government in it's tracks, for the state unemployment rate going up, I say $.02 would be a just pension. AND NO SECOND TERM!!

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

Republicans already did this

The Gov. and Republicans forced a change in the retirement system for 1000's already on retirement. They said past promises meant nothing and they could change anything mid-stream and they did not care what had been done for the last 30+years. That was "Grossly unfair", but done. If you are looking for a political assault look no further than the Republican/Gov. assault on the Maine Retirement system. One can run but cannot hide from their past performance. And to add insult to injury the assaults continue on the Maine Retirement system.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

Plain and simple this is a

Plain and simple this is a hate filled bill proposed by a person who does not know that ex post facto laws are illegal in this country. This alone should be enough reason for voters to demand a recall of this gentleman. If he does not even posses a base knowledge of the legal structure of this country how can he be allowed to serve in the legislature?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Just another example of

Just another example of depths of lowness the democrats will sleaze to in their efforts to get at a republican.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Jackson has the right idea, HOWEVER

Jackson has the right idea, HOWEVER. You can't change canoes in the middle of the stream. That said we should look at a lot more pensions in the state government.

How much of a pension does a member of the house or senate receive? I was unaware that we even gave the govenor a pension.

This is just another case of the fox guarding the chicken coop. It's high time to trap the fox and send it back into the wild.

David  Cote's picture

If this bill passes...

Then it makes sense to cut the existing pensions of past governors as well. Make the cuts count against two term governors since we are discussing ways to make everything fair. If state workers have to take a percentage cut off their pensions then the governors' pensions should get clipped at the same percentage.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Pensions

Just as I think politicians in Washington should have the same Social Security/Medicare retirement benefits other Americans have, I think the Governor should have the same retirement plan state workers have. Why should his be better than ours? Funny how the same people who are always telling us the state is broke and we can't afford to pay retirement for teachers and firemen think the governor's pension is such a valuable investment for Maine taxpayers.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Just as I think politicians

"Just as I think politicians in Washington should have the same Social Security/Medicare retirement benefits other Americans have,"...
You have it half right, Claire. You should have stated that all Americans should have the same Medical and retirement benefits that THEY have. What's good enough for them ought to be good enough for the rest of us. Contrary to their beliefs, they are not the elite ruling class. They work for us but we allow them to get away with thinking that it's the other way around.

Virginia  Penney's picture

Lepage pension

Yea. It is about time the politicians take the kind of cuts they hand out to the rest of the workers in the state. I think it should be based on the amount of time in office. None of us get to work 4 yrs and retire. Seems to me I read an article that he has sold his property in Maine and the rest of his holdings are in Florida. So. He does not even pay property taxes in Maine. His wife changed her Florida License for a Maine one to look a little more respectable in the eyes of voters, maybe. I believe his children benefit from the state for college educations. Could be wrong. This is just from memory.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

How many laws has he broken?

How many laws has he broken?

FRANK EARLEY's picture

What, exactly are these

What, exactly are these legislators afraid of. Sen. Jackson is only attempting to change a job requirement. A change that may affect the Governor in much the same way that LePage's cuts and changes are affecting hundreds if not thousands of other State workers. Is making the Governor work one extra day to earn a full pension really that outlandish? Personally I don't feel he deserves a pension of any kind.
I know everyone thinks he doing such a wonderful job paying down the debt. The problem is, that group of "back slappers" doesn't include the poor, elderly, and disabled folks he used as bargaining chips to accomplish his goals. I have come to a new understanding as to how Government is supposed to work. There is the right way, then there's the LePage way. Now the " LePage" way is going to come back and haunt the Governor. Now he may realize the sting of being told "your not worth it".
Imagine a change like this causing bilateral friction in Congress or the Senate. I'm assuming a lot more than the Governor refusing to even speak with the Democratic contingent for what ever pitiful reason he may of had. Threatening to not do his job, is another big play in his book. My favorite is his total disregard for the voice of the people. The way it works now is, the people vote, the Governor then decides if he is ok with the outcome. If he's not, well, to bad people. His "my way or the hi-way" attitude has gone on way to long. The fact that we're even considering giving him a "Pension", in itself is amazing.
Could it be, the Senators against this rule change,are just looking out for their own Gubernatorial hopes and dreams? I mean it stands to reason why a person who, for whatever reason can't get re-elected to office, would at least want a life time pension after just four years. I mean look at the alternative. They may actually need to earn the pension the old fashioned way. Work till your 65 and retire, that's what the little people have to do......

GARY SAVARD's picture

I think all perks for elected

I think all perks for elected officials , especially part timers like our legislators, such as Troy Jackson, should be reduced or eliminated. As far as Jackson's proposal that targets Paul Lepage specifically, it comes as no surprise to me because he, like so many others we Mainers send to Augusta, obviously has a very small mind.

Paul Duncan's picture

Pension

I am in favor of the bill, although I don't think that it will pass. I receive a smaller pension after working for the state for 30 years than the Governor will get for working 4 years? Most state workers aren't even vested in the system until after 5 years. And if I'm correct, he's not even subject to the cost of living raise limits that we other state workers are subject to. And does he have to wait until normal retirement age to start receiving his pension? I don't believe so. Much of the same can be said for those serving in the legislature as well. Must be nice to be in a position to decide on your own special and lucrative retirement benefits as well as pay raises and be able to blame it on previous administrations and legislatures! Those of you who complain about state worker benefits should look at the benefits and pay your leaders provide for themselves. Maybe they should be more in line with the average state worker.

 's picture

What is this? 2nd Grade?

Petty. Needs to go back to the skidder.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

What ever happened to Ex Post Facto law??????

Is this even legal?

Sad when we have this type of politics going on in Augusta.

So much for bi-partisanship and playing nice!

Nothing surprises me anymore!

Andrew Jones's picture

As of this article, LePage

As of this article, LePage has worked 804 days and would not be simply, "working one day, quitting, and collecting a pension".

Should a governor be required to win and serve two terms to collect a pension? No. I think a democrat would be the last person to state such a claim. Should the governor's pension be reduced for serving one term? Maybe. Should the same cuts applied to state workers also apply to the governor? Now that is a topic for debate; after all, he is a state worker.

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