When I came into office in 2011, the state workforce had been subject to pay freezes and furlough days, reducing the pay of a state worker by 5 percent.
I promised state employees that I would restore their lost pay and that I would never balance a budget on their backs. I have kept those promises.
State employees received a 1 percent raise, the first pay raise in nearly five years, in 2013. They got another 1 percent raise the next year. I also restored merit and longevity raises. Since then, state employees have received cost-of-living raises.
The Baldacci Administration balanced the budget on the backs of employees and implemented so-called “fair share” service fees. State employees who did not want to join the union were forced to have the union’s service fees deducted from their pay.
Last August, the State reached agreements with the MSEA and AFSCME unions. MSEA agreed to a contract with two 3-percent raises in exchange for giving up the service fee.
However, AFSCME union bosses from Boston insisted on a 1 percent increase and keeping the service fee. But Maine’s members rejected that proposal, and AFSCME ultimately accepted the same 3 percent increases as that of the MSEA.
Although we offered similar proposals to both AFSCME and MSEA during the 2015 contract negotiations, the union negotiators chose the lower raises so they could keep service fees rolling in. They put political slush funds for union bosses ahead of the needs of our workers.
The Maine State Troopers Association and Maine State Law Enforcement Association have also received 3 percent raises and other benefits. Those who protect the public deserve to be adequately compensated for their service and sacrifice.
We’ve also made reforms that ensure our employees spend their time working for the people, not the unions. We eliminated paid release time for more than 290 employees for annual union meetings; reduced the number of employees released for union Board of Director meetings, bargaining and grievance committees; and eliminated an extra day of training leave for MSEA chief stewards.
Another important reform for our state employees, as well as our public school teachers, was addressing the unfunded liability in the pension system.
When I took office, I inherited an unfunded liability of $4.1 billion. Decades of one-party control by Democrats in Maine’s Legislature had made repeated promises to state employees without regard for cost or the state’s ability to keep them.
I worked with the Republican-led 125th Legislature to reform this broken system, reducing the liability from $4.1 billion to $2.4 billion—a decrease of 41 percent.
I’ve put a priority on maintaining the highest levels of customer service while modernizing the state’s services. Although we’ve shrunk the size of our workforce, mostly through attrition, the savings has allowed us to make these investments.
As our unemployment rate drops, it will be harder to replace retiring state workers. Our reforms have not only benefitted the current workforce, they will help us recruit the workers of the future.