State budget plan may send hundreds to retirement

Posted March 13, 2011, at 8:33 p.m.
Last modified March 14, 2011, at 6:49 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State budget projections show that hundreds of Maine state workers and teachers may vacate their jobs for retirement within the next several months because of a budget proposal to make them pay for their health coverage.

Maine Today Media newspapers reported Sunday that 600 to 700 state workers and 1,000 teachers likely will retire before Jan. 1 because of changes proposed in Gov. Paul LePage’s budget. Under his plan, state workers and teachers who retire after Jan. 1 would have to pay for their coverage until they turn 65.

Mary Anne Turowski, a lobbyist for the Maine State Employees Association,  said people close to retirement may have wanted to work for an additional year to pay for a child’s college education.

But if they do, and then retire before they are 65, they face paying more than $8,000 a year out-of-pocket for health coverage.

“I think our members are quite appalled,” she said. “It’s a broken promise.”

Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett says the changes could save the state $11.4 million over the next two years. But for teachers, they would cost the state $2 million because more than double the usual number of teachers would retire.

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