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Three years ago, Republicans eliminated 41 percent of the existing shortfall in Maine’s pension system. When we did that, it protected retirees’ future benefits while using common-sense reforms.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage. Overall, the pension reform saved nearly $2 billion. It was a fiscally responsible decision, which will save Maine taxpayers and protect the pension system as a whole from going bankrupt. Just last week, the Legislature and special-interests groups sparked another pension debate. This time it was a bill to allow teachers to retire, but keep teaching for up to 10 years while drawing a pension and full salary for five of those years. When teachers become eligible for their retirement funds, they deserve it. However, we cannot allow people to retire, draw a pension and return to work receiving 100 percent of their salary. This kind of double-dipping will hurt the fiscal integrity of the teachers’ pension system in the long run, as well as the teaching industry as a whole. It forces young teachers to leave our great State for lack of teaching opportunities. It is important that this retirement fund is available well into the future. Teachers who are not ready to retire should simply continue teaching, not add to the financial burden on the pension system and take jobs away from younger qualified teachers looking for work. In typical fashion, the Maine Education Association claimed victory when this bill passed and accused me of making inaccurate statements to the people of Maine. The MEA president said the fact that legislators chose to override the governor’s veto of this bill shows they are willing to see through the governor’s false claims.
I have no stake in this bill, other than help our youth stay in Maine and get good career jobs. As the Chief Executive of the State, fiscal responsibility and keeping our young professionals here are major priorities. Keeping our retirement fund solvent is important to all State employees and educators who will eventually benefit from it. MEA has said the only way this program could create a cost to a retirement plan is if the practice of retiring and then continuing to work were to become widespread.

Well, today there are hundreds of teachers who are drawing a pension and still receiving 100 percent of their salary. Now that this bill has passed, it’s not inconceivable to think more teachers will take advantage of the law. In fact, I know of teachers already talking about it.

Instead of recognizing the strain on the system this change will cause, MEA refuses to acknowledge the problem. MEA said that until such experience consistently develops, we do not believe the cost impact of LD 39 would be significant.

The reality is no one knows at this time how many teachers may take advantage of the additional five years. So, let’s do it until it becomes a problem. Wow! What logic.

I chose the fiscally conservative approach that protects the pension fund, and provides our young Maine teaching professionals with more opportunities.

This is the reason I vetoed the bill. I stand for a fiscally sound pension fund and want to provide career level teaching opportunities for all young people.

Thank you for listening.

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