March 19, 2013

'Punitive' bill said to target LePage

Sen. Troy Jackson's bill to limit governors' pensions gets a cool reaction from both sides of the aisle.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — A Democratic state senator wants to limit the pension due to Gov. Paul Le-Page and future governors to erase what he sees as LePage's double standard on retirement policy.

Sen. Troy Jackson's proposed constitutional amendment says LePage, a Republican, would have to be elected to a second term to receive benefits.

Maine law now says a governor can serve for a single day, resign and become eligible for a $26,000-a-year pension.

"This should not be allowed," Jackson told the Legislature's State and Local Government Committee on Monday.

During the last legislative session, when Republicans were in the majority, state retirees' pensions were frozen for a year as 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases in the state retirement system were suspended.

The measures were in the state budget as part of a plan to reduce pension debt by about $1.7 billion.

Jackson said none of the changes was applied to Le-Page's pension so his proposed amendment would help to even retirement policy, Maine Public Radio reported.

"I think when someone makes a stand on this, they should put their money where their mouth is," said Jackson, of Allagash.

He told the committee that his bill would require LePage and all future governors to be elected to two terms before they could receive retirement benefits. He said the state Constitution would have to be amended because it now says benefits cannot be changed for a sitting governor.

Committee members, including Democrats and an independent, reacted coolly to Jackson's proposal, and Republicans dismissed it as political retaliation.

"This particular bill is a punitive action against the sitting governor," said independent Rep. Jeff Evangelos of Friendship. "I don't think it's a good idea and I'm here to tell you that."

Rep. Brian Jones, D-Freedom, called the bill a "distracting legislative proposal."

"In fact, its consideration makes the environment required for cooperation and collegiality even more toxic," Jones said.

The committee will review the pension bill at a future meeting.

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