AUGUSTA, Maine — The Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a bill to let retired teachers back into the classroom at full pay for up to five years.
The 29-5 Senate vote comes a day after the House also overrode the veto with a vote of 133-5. The bill will now become law.
The bill, LD 39, was introduced last year by Rep. Peter Johnson, R-Greenville. It took aim at a law passed by LePage and the Republican-controlled 125th Legislature that reduced pay to 75 percent of the base rate for retired state employees — including teachers — who “double-dipped,” or continued to work while receiving a state pension.
Johnson’s bill allows retired classroom-based employees to return to work at full pay on one-year contracts for no more than five years in any particular school district. If they work more than five years for the same district, they could continue to work at that district for another five years but at 75 percent of their salary.
The bill originally passed the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support earlier this month. LePage vetoed the bill on March 18, saying it could become a financial burden on the teachers’ retirement fund and “clog up” schools with educators well beyond the retirement age, making it more difficult for young teachers to find jobs.
“Teachers who are not ready to retire should simply continue teaching, not add to the financial burden on the pension system for their own financial gain,” LePage wrote.
The Maine Education Association, the union that represents most of the state’s public school teachers, on Thursday pointed out that the Maine Public Employee Retirement System had not opposed the bill, and that the bill contained no fiscal note — meaning it cost the state nothing.
“The fact that both Democrats and Republicans chose to override the governor’s veto of this bill shows they are willing to see through the governor’s false claims,” said Lois Kilby-Chesley, the Maine Education Association’s president.
Proponents of the bill say it is necessary because schools — especially those in rural districts — can have a hard time filling teaching positions after a longtime educator retires. The one-year contracts required by the bill are an effort to allow retired educators to continue teaching while district officials search for a suitable new hire.
“This is an important step to help all districts but especially those in rural Maine attract and retain high-quality teachers for their students,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, chairwoman of the Education Committee, in a news release. “We all know how important great teachers are to our children’s love of learning, and we should be doing everything we can to keep great teachers in the classroom.”
The bill represents only the eighth time the Legislature has successfully overridden a LePage veto. The governor has vetoed more than 80 bills.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.