GUEST COLUMN

More and more cuts to state employees? When does it end?

Posted May 09, 2011, at 9:40 p.m.

I am a state employee with almost 11 years of service and I am the “breadwinner” in my family. My husband makes only $11 per hour so my family is dependent on the bulk of my salary to pay our bills.

I know I don’t have to make legislators aware of the terrible economy, the increase in gas prices or food prices.

What I need to stress to our lawmakers are things such as my drive to work — one way — being 45 minutes on a good day; that both of our vehicles are 6-cylinder, gas-guzzlers; and that my electric bill, last month alone, was $170 — for a mobile home where no one is home during the day.

We have stretched and skimped to be able to pay our bills as it is. If the benefits that I’ve worked so hard to keep are taken away, we will be in even more jeopardy of losing our home.

When people outside of state government tell me, “You’re lucky you have a job,” my response to them is, “I’m sorry, but luck had nothing to do with it. I took a four-hour test when I applied for this job. Yes, I had to apply for this job. No one handed it to me on a silver platter.

“Then, I had to interview for this job. I went to school to better educate myself so that I would have a better chance of getting this job. I worked several jobs in this field before getting this job, so that I could acquire enough experience to help my chances of getting this job. And, I have been working diligently at this job for 11 years.”

My choice to pursue a career in state government was partly influenced by benefits I was assured to receive as stated in my job description.

Often I hear complaints that folks are leaving this state to seek employment elsewhere. When they have to face the threat of losing their livelihood every time they turn around, why wouldn’t they? When they see others promised benefits that are then taken away, what is the incentive to stay?

Haven’t we, as state employees, suffered enough? Haven’t we carried the entire burden of the state’s deficit on our shoulders enough?

I’m all for giving back. And, I have no problem with sacrificing my share. But, when does it end? My share has already become more than my share. And, it’s simply not right.

Please, for all you lawmakers who might be reading this, take what I’m saying into consideration and share it with your cohorts when you decide what more you are to take away from my family.

Laura Hall of Liberty works for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

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