Maine governor defends pension freezes, cuts

Posted March 05, 2011, at 12:34 p.m.
Last modified March 07, 2011, at 9:39 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday that freezes and cutbacks in the retirement system he proposed this week are sensible reforms that save $524 million in past due payments and cut the state’s total unfunded pension liability in half.

In his weekly radio address, the governor said his proposal puts Maine on a sustainable path toward fully funding its retirement obligations as required in the state Constitution. But he said his fix is not easy and is filled with shared sacrifice, including cost-of-living freezes and caps for retirees, and higher retirement contributions by active workers.

LePage said state workers and teachers who made their case against the changes to lawmakers earlier this week are right in one respect: Promises made to them years ago could never be honored because Maine has limited resources.

In the Democratic response, Sen. John Patrick of Rumford said Mainers’ civil liberties are being threatened by bills to require voters to present a photo ID in order to vote, and to eliminate same-day voter registration.

Patrick, Democratic leader on the Veterans’ and Legal Affairs Committee, said he’s counted more than 30 bills this session seeking to restrict voting rights and obstruct the electoral process.

Patrick said the bills that pose the greatest concern are examples of a “solution searching for a problem.”

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