Maine teachers fear proposed pension freezes

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A day after union state workers filled the Maine State House, active and retired teachers are lining up to tell lawmakers they can't afford freezes and other changes Gov. Paul LePage is proposing in his budget.

Paul LePage
Robert F. Bukaty

Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House Thursday, March 3, 2011, in Augusta, Maine. The governor wants to help reduce the state's $4.3 billion budget shortfall by changing how Maine's pension system is funded. State workers say they're bearing the brunt of cuts that will hurt their retirements. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

State workers gather to oppose Gov. Paul LePage's budget proposal during a rally outside the State House Thursday, March 3, 2011, in Augusta, Maine. The governor wants to help reduce the state's $4.3 billion budget shortfall by changing how Maine's pension system is funded. State workers say they're bearing the brunt of cuts that will hurt their retirements.

Friday's hearing before the Appropriations Committee marks the third consecutive day public employees have massed in Augusta to speak out on provisions in LePage's $6.1 billion, two-year budget.

Mary Richard of Bangor, who's retired from teaching in Lincoln, says any cut in a Maine teacher's pension is going to be a burden, given rises in the cost of living.

Grace Leavitt of Raymond, who teaches Spanish in Cumberland, says she's never seen teachers so "demoralized and downtrodden."

Issues of concern include increased retirement age, freezing cost-of-living increases and higher pension contributions.

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Comments

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Share the burden

The problem here is not that everyone must share the burden of the budget deficit. The problem is that the burden is falling all on the same place. Expecting the poor, the elderly and public sector employees to carry the lion's share of the solution to the budget deficit is sort of like robbing a homeless man to get enough money to buy a car. Taxes will have to be raised and the rich will have to chip in their fair share if anything near a realistic solution is to occur.

Jack Tetreault's picture

freezes

What about the privet sector freezes and cuts? The burden should be for all to bear. What makes the public sector so special? Everyone in a household bears the burden of cutbacks when funds are not available. Other people's money has run out and that's all there is to it pure and simple. No amount of hooting and hollering like a baby is going to change that. The ride is over and we all must live with the consequences of the high and irresponsible living on credit that we have become to feel entitled to. Credit has it's limits and demands to be paid back. We are in the payback era now. No choice. Get used to it and adapt.

Doreen Sheive's picture

These are difficult times, however,

To hit the retirees by eliminating the possibility of COLAs and then reducing the possibility of more than 2% increases in future COLAs is especially difficult to take since us retirees have less chance (if we are healthy enough) to go go out and get new employment. It is especially difficult to accept that these cuts will pay for tax breaks for the rich. This is just simply LePage's total disrespect for state employees and teachers. And, worse yet, he doesn't have a clue as to why he disrespects us so much.

Tyla Strout's picture

I hate to see this happen to

I hate to see this happen to teachers. I hate to see it happen to anyone. But these are the tough decisions that need to be made to get us back to a more financially sound place. This is happening in every industry. Lots of people are taking pay cuts, people are losing jobs, having pensions reduced - it's hitting everyone. So, as much as I feel for the teachers, I don't see why they should be exempt from what is happening to the rest of us...

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