Assistant Democratic Senate Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) wants Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage to forfeit his pension unless he his re-elected to a second term in the Blaine House. Jackson’s Democratic colleague, however, has called his efforts a “distraction,” “political shenanigans,” and “mere political tomfoolery.”
Jackson testified on Monday before the State and Local Government Committee in favor of his bill, L.D. 490, which would amend Maine’s Constitution to specify that only two-term governors may receive pensions.
“As the law stands now, someone could take the Governor’s Oath of Office, serve one day, and then quit and receive the full pension,” Jackson said during his testimony. “This should not be allowed.”
“I also believe that at a time when Governor LePage and others are asking state employees to sacrifice, even at the expense at their own pensions which were promised to them when they signed their contracts, that the governor should be held to the same standard,” said Jackson.
“I hope this bill can serve as a starting point to clear up any loopholes with governors pensions, and perhaps serve as a means to foster a more respectful relationship between the governors office and our hard-working state employees,” said Jackson.
According to the latest data on Maine’s pension system, three former governors currently receive pension payments: Democrat Kenneth M. Curtis, who served from 1967 to 1975; Democrat Joseph E. Brennan, who served from 1979 to 1987; and un-enrolled Democrat Sen. Angus King, who served from 1995 to 2003.
According to the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, Curtis has received more than $478,000 in payments, while Brennan has received more than $410,000. King, according to records, has taken in more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Jackson’s bill would affect future governors and would retroactively affect the sitting governor. While Jackson said he wants his proposed amendment to foster respect between state workers and the Governor, it’s difficult to see how his bill is anything other than a partisan attack.
Rep. Brian L. Jones (D-Freedom) testified against the amendment, offering a blistering indictment of Jackson’s motives.
“Whether we agree or not with our current Governor, changing his benefits after one term is more than political shenanigans, it’s a personal affront,” said Jones. “This distracting legislative proposal does nothing to further the goodwill needed to productively engage in the hard work of leading Maine through these difficult times.”
“In fact, even its consideration makes the environment required for cooperation and collegiality more toxic,” said Jones.
“What is indeed the purpose of bringing this bill forward? Is it to save the state and its taxpayers’ money? I certainly hope the committee requests and considers a fiscal note. But if cost savings are the motive, I respectfully ask the committee to consider the costs of the pensions of all Legislators,” said Jones.
“If we are here to serve the people, and not for personal financial gain, perhaps a nobler proposal would be to consider legislation that would have the effect of all elected of officials foregoing retirement benefits,” he said.
“This bill is a distraction, mere political tomfoolery that will serve no purpose but to inflame unnecessarily the tensions between the Legislature and the Governor,” said Jones.
“This is not responsible leadership of our state,” he said.
By S.E. Robinson