Public employees aren't to blame

I have been reading with great care all of the accounts of how the Public Employee Pension Fund got into so much trouble, and have read and heard that it is all the fault of teachers wanting better benefits. The explanation in the Sun Journal (Sept. 2) does not accurately explain what happened. The implication that it was greedy teachers who wanted a larger pension who are responsible for the problem is categorically untrue.

No one has mentioned that it was during the administration of former Gov. James Longley in the 1970s, when the pension fund was fat with money (or so it seemed), that the first raid on the fund occurred. The Legislature needed to pass the supplemental budget and let it be known that the money for that budget could easily be taken from the Public Employee Pension Fund.

The Maine Teachers Association (the name had not yet been changed) knew that that course of action would definitely lead to trouble and mobilized teacher leaders to protest in the halls at the State House.

I was one of those teachers.

We gathered and, with the leadership of the executive director, John Marvin, lobbied each of our legislators to not use that route to fund the budget.

Lisbon's representative was a highly regarded leader who went on to higher places, but he was so committed to that source of funding that he publicly reprimanded me in the halls in front of other protesters.

So the Legislature had its way with the pension money, but the money would be repaid quickly we were told.

That repayment never came, but Gov. John McKernan did and he also targeted the pension fund as a source for more funding. Repayment was put off to 2028 I believe, but the Legislature could easily get the unfunded liability paid off by that time, we were assured.

In the years since Longley and the first raid, no one has done anything to begin repaying.

To blame public employees for this problem is terribly unfair, uninformed and ignorant.

I would hope that at least the Sun Journal would check its facts back to the Longley years when the first raid was made and let the public know that targeting teachers and other public employees is not fair and not accurate.

Prudence Grant, Lisbon Falls

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Comments

 's picture

Thanks Prudence!

Having taught public school in Auburn since 1972, I was pleased to YOU write about important occurrences which significantly contributed to the unfunded liability.
Politicians looking for easy fixes to their immediate budgetary woes are often the cause of long lasting problems, both at the State and Federal levels.
Blaming the victims has become endemic these days!

Bob Stone's picture

The pols just can't keep their hands of pension money

1. Ms. Grant can't seem to come out and say it, but two facts missing from her letter have to do with Democrats:

a. Desperate for money to balance a huge revenue shortfall just a few years ago, Baldacci and friends on the Democrat side of the aisle refinanced the state employee pension fund at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Essentially, they took the route of adding hundreds of millions of interest on the backs of future taxpayers to gain a few bucks to plug an immediate budget shortfall.

b. Libby Mitchell was voting for all of this while she was in the legislature. It is indeed stunning that the teachers and state employee unions are supporting Libby after she has put their retirement income in jeopardy. Some people never learn, I guess.

2. Cheer up, Ms. Grant. At least your pension fund has a cash balance in it. We blokes who work in the private sector have nothing but IOU's in our Social Security account. Our contributions have been spent on a host of other things not related to our retirement (like food stamps, B-2 bombers, etc.) and we are left with a promise from politicians to be there when we need our social security check next month. We feel sorry for you, but at least you have something in the account. We have nothing.

Mark Wrenn's picture

t bills

Nothin' but t-bills in there.

Bob Stone's picture

Not True

The fund has special issue securities in it. They are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. And are fully dependent on the willingness of this, and future, congresses to pay them. Let's hope they do.

Bob Stone's picture

Or You Could Join the Military...

I enlisted in 1968. Try that insult out on someone else.

David A. Gagnon's picture

Didn't you know

Scott, didn't you know, conservatives have never served in the military according to XYZ. Problem is, liberals make up less than 20% of the military. But don't tell XYZ that, he's liable to fall into manic depression. Remember the flap a couple years ago about the "Phony Soldier" surrounding Limbaugh, that had to do with certain liberals that had embellished their service records while supposedly serving in Iraq and as it turned out they were DD out of the military. But the willing press used their false stories of mass murder and negligence in order to dishonor US troops that had actually served. John Kerry did something similar and almost got away with it, but that was OK cause he served all of four months in Nam and supposedly came home a hero. And he still hasn't signed his 180 forms.

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