AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s political foes in his re-election bid are criticizing a new policy that’s giving more vacation time to political appointees and staff.

But LePage’s administration says the policy change is part of a larger effort to improve recruitment and retention in state government.

Under it, 54 officials have been able to count years worked prior to their appointment — in some cases, outside of state government — when calculating vacation time. The change was first reported Wednesday by the Bangor Daily News.

To accrue more vacation time, officials may be able to use time spent working in quasi-government agencies or even the private sector, if the previous work is similar to work they’re doing in their current job. Thirty-six of the employees who received extra time were brought on by the LePage administration.

LePage said in a statement that the executive branch has to bring its benefits in line with those given to other state employees, such as legislative staff.

“Providing vacation accrual is just one tool in our effort to seek parity with the pay and benefits afforded to other state employees,” the governor said.

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud called the move “outrageous” and another example of LePage’s “mismanagement wasting taxpayer dollars.”

“Gov. LePage has attacked Maine workers time and time again, but he has the audacity to radically increase paid vacation time for his political appointees while the state’s economy continues to lag behind,” he said in a statement.

Independent Eliot Cutler accused LePage of playing “political favorites.” Cutler said that if the change is a good idea, it should be implemented for all state employees, not just political appointees.

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