Back in 2000-2002, thanks to an even partisan divide in the Maine Senate, we served together as Senate presidents – Democrat and Republican. Those were some politically polarized times, but we found ways for the parties to work together – particularly on fiscal issues.

We congratulate those currently serving on agreeing with bipartisan supermajorities to put Question 4 on the ballot for the approval of Maine voters.

Since serving together, we’ve shared a concern over the long-term sustainability of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. That’s why we now urge our fellow Mainers to vote “yes” on Question 4.

Our state pension plan was severely underfunded when we served in the Legislature 20 years ago. At one point, only 22 cents had been reserved for every dollar of pension commitments. To put our plan onto a sustainable long-term path, a constitutional amendment was passed in 1995. Two decades later, the system has 80 cents for every dollar of pension benefits committed, one of the best funding levels in the country.

One of the 1995 reforms required that if any market losses occur, the state would have 10 years to recover losses by making tax dollar contributions. Today, the requirement is out of line with other states, where the loss recovery period is typically 20 to 30 years.

The difference means that taxpayers must pay more into the system during times of economic difficulty. Given market cycles and the long time horizon for paying benefits, the 10-year recovery period is not sensible. Question 4 would update our laws and lessen the volatility of the taxpayers’ share of pension costs.

The time to pass this reform is now. Your “yes” vote on Question 4 will cut the immediate impact on state taxpayers in half, and give the system 20 years to recover from a market downturn.

Please join us in voting “yes” on Question 4.