Gov. Paul LePage is redoubling his efforts to persuade the Legislature to raise the pay of state troopers, game wardens and marine patrol officers by 12 to 18 percent.

The governor’s bill, introduced by House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, would boost the salaries for state troopers, game wardens, marine patrol officers and a host of other law enforcement personnel throughout the state. The bill was introduced on the same day that the Maine House voted to pass a bill to provide a 5 percent increase to law enforcement supervisors employed by the state.

LePage said he wants a separate, up-or-down vote on the proposed pay increases for law enforcement rather than see it included in a supplemental budget bill sought by Democrats. Seeking to increase pressure on lawmakers, LePage threatened to compel them to return for an emergency session this summer if the issue is not addressed.

“Law enforcement officers across Maine put their lives on the line every day to protect the Maine people and the value of their public service ought to be reflected in a decent salary,” LePage said in a statement Tuesday. “However, Democrats are attempting to roll this bill into a totally separate budget bill in an effort to spend more taxpayer money. … Legislators can either pass a stand-alone bill for law enforcement wages, or I will call them back in this summer to deal with this again. The choice is theirs.”

A top Democratic budget negotiator said the governor’s proposal would be examined carefully, adding it needs to receive the same public hearing and work session as any other bill. But Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, criticized the LePage administration for not being more forthcoming with lawmakers about the state’s finances as they approach the midway point of the two-year budget.

“The big thing is the governor has not submitted a supplemental budget and without a supplemental budget, we don’t know where there are pockets of money left over or where there are needs because the governor will not tell us that,” said Valentino. “So when the governor comes up with a bill and says, ‘I can fund it,’ well, we don’t have access to that information.”


The political maneuvering, which comes as lawmakers face a November election, could complicate efforts to improve law enforcement salaries as a way to draw more applicants.

The latest measure would raise base salaries in 30 job classifications in the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Department of Marine Resources. Officers of all ranks would see pay increases of between 12 percent and 18 percent as soon as May 1.

The administration is proposing to pay for the raises – at least initially – not from the state’s General Fund but from a special fund set aside for collective bargaining agreements. However, the administration did not provide a price tag for the proposals and the fiscal note for the bill was not yet available.

Bumping up pay would help the state recruit and retain new recruits at a time when personnel levels are flagging, especially within the Maine State Police, where there are 32 vacancies, Public Safety Commissioner John Morris said in a statement. An additional 25 current state police personnel are eligible for retirement this year, Morris said.

Similar issues of attrition and recruitment plague the Department of Marine Resources, said Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

In the 1980s and 1990s, an opening for a marine patrol officer drew more than 100 applicants, Keliher said. When the department recently posted for applications for four open positions, fewer than 20 people submitted resumes, he said.


Although their numbers are smaller – a total of 38 marine patrol officers work in the field – the specialized department faces the same issues as other departments.

In 2015, five marine patrol officers left the force, and each cited pay as a factor, Keliher said. Unlike state troopers, he said, marine patrol officers have few overtime opportunities.

“I did the exit interviews, and pay was a large contributing factor,” he said. “We can quickly fall into an issue where we can’t compete. It’s rare for a governor to step up and introduce a bill to say, ‘Let’s deal with this head on.'”

Currently, starting pay for a state trooper is $18.57 per hour, for a salary of roughly $38,600 before taxes. The new rate would be $20.98 per hour, or about $43,600 pre-tax.

However, a Portland Press Herald review of state payroll data shows that the base pay rate is only one portion of state police compensation.

Of the 269 troopers, corporals, sergeants and lieutenants who received state paychecks in 2015, 193 of them earned at least an additional 20 percent of their base salary in overtime, and at least 43 earned even more, taking home an additional 50 percent of their base pay in overtime wages.


Six troopers, the lowest rank of sworn state police officers, earned more than $100,000 through a combination of base pay, overtime and stipends.

The highest-earning trooper was Lee R. Vanadestine, who more than doubled his $55,394 base salary, earning $58,466 in overtime, for a grand total of $114,513 in total compensation. (Vandestine was paid a stipend of $652, in addition to his hourly wages.)

Corporals earned less among their colleagues when overtime was accounted for, with the highest-paid officer at that rank, Corey A. Hafford, pulling in $94,127 – $57,003 in base pay and 37,037 in overtime, along with a negligible stipend of $86.

Among state police sergeants, eight surpassed $100,000, including the highest earner at that rank, Alden E. Bustard, who nearly doubled his base salary of $65,760, tacking on an additional $58,331 in overtime pay. His total compensation, with stipends, came to $128,543.

State police lieutenants, meanwhile, earned higher base salaries, but had far fewer overtime opportunities than officers of lesser rank. The top earner at that rank was Troy A. Gardiner, who was paid $90,507 – $70,679 in base salary, a $5,668 stipend and $14,158 in overtime.

Troopers, who are unionized, already received a 3 percent raise in September 2015, and are slated to receive a second 3 percent bump in July 2016, according to the most recent union contract, which went into effect in 2015 and expires in 2017. Another clause, which applies for one year only, allows troopers eligible for a regular step increase in pay to move up two rungs on the compensation scale instead of one in 2016.


Yet, Morris said recruiting troopers is difficult, given the rigors of the job and the potential for a trooper to be posted anywhere in the state.

“In recent years we have seen a dramatic decrease in applicants with only 11 successful applicants in 2015,” Morris said in the statement, and this year, 25 troopers are eligible for retirement. “Counterparts in other New England states average $6 to $14 more per hour compared to Maine. We are also competing with local police agencies that pay higher salaries than the Maine State Police.”

Valentino, the Saco Democrat who serves on the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, said she was not against LePage’s proposal but that it needed to be examined in the same context as all of the other budget requests. She also accused the governor of failing to work with the Legislature as an equal part of government responsible for passing budget bills.

“There’s this feeling around here that we are not an equal branch of government, and we are,” Valentino said. “And I think the only reason our powers have diminished is because we’ve allowed them to. The Legislature needs to stand up for itself.”

Following are the job classifications that would receive pay increases under LePage’s proposal:

12 percent: Game Warden Sergeant, Game Warden Lieutenant, Marine Patrol Pilot Supervisor, Marine Patrol Sergeant or Marine Patrol Lieutenant.


13 percent: State Police Trooper, Game Warden Investigator, Game Warden Specialist, Capitol Police Officer or Fire Investigator.

14 percent: Game Warden Pilot Supervisor.

15 percent: State Police Specialist, State Police Corporal, State Police Detective, State Police Polygraph Examiner, State Police Forensic Specialist, State Police Pilot, State Police Pilot Supervisor, State Police Polygraph Examiner Supervisor, State Police Sergeant-E, Game Warden, Marine Patrol Officer, Capitol Police Sergeant, Senior Fire Investigator, Fire Investigations Sergeant or Forensic Specialist, Dual Discipline.

17 percent: Game Warden Pilot.

18 percent: State Police Lieutenant, Capitol Police Lieutenant or Marine Patrol Specialist.



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