Protected: Retiree COLA

MSEA-SEIU retiree members and family on December 19 thanked Senator Shenna Bellows, at center, for working to make LD 1104 become law.

2 retirement-security initiatives become law; we’re supporting 3 others this session

Retiree COLA protected: LD 1104, the legislation protecting the MainePERS retiree cost of living adjustment (COLA), has become law. Sponsored by Representative Michelle Dunphy, LD 1104 protects the retiree COLA in statute. This victory, won by hundreds of MSEA-SEIU members and allies who spoke with their legislators and the Governor, will go a long way toward helping current and future retirees keep up with the cost of living. Please thank the legislative leaders instrumental in making LD 1104 become law. Email them using this link.

Respect secured for Emergency Communications Specialists: LD 833, Representative Donna Doore’s bipartisan legislation providing Emergency Communications Specialists with the same retirement as law enforcement officers, has become law. This new law is necessary to recruit and retain qualified employees for the Emergency Communications Specialist classification. It applies to Emergency Communications Specialists in the employment of the Maine Department of Public Safety on July 1, 2020, who elect to participate in the 1998 Special Plan, or hired thereafter.

Below are three retirement-security proposals we’re supporting:

Support LD 1659 for workers at Riverview, Dorothea Dix: LD 1659, sponsored by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, would put workers at Riverview Psychiatric Center and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in the 1998 Special Plan for retirement purposes. Email the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee at SLG@legislature.maine.gov and ask them to support LD 1659.

Support LD 1355 for Computer Crimes Unit, Crime Lab workers: We support LD 1355, sponsored by Senator Bill Diamond, to expand the 1988 special retirement plan to include employees in the State Police Crime Lab and the State Police Computer Crimes Unit. While the Maine House and the Maine Senate approved this legislation last year, it was held up by the Appropriations Committee, where it remains pending. The workers in the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the Maine State Police Crime Lab do traumatic work. It takes a toll on them as workers, as private citizens, as spouses or partners, as parents. It’s past time we stopped expecting these workers to do this gruesome work until their normal retirement age. It’s past time to include these workers in the 1998 Special Retirement Plan. Email the Appropriations Committee at AFA@legislature.maine.gov and ask them to support LD 1355.

Support LD 162 for pension fairness: While Maine doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, it does tax the pension benefits earned by Maine’s retired state workers, educators and others participating in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. This penalizes Mainers who worked some, or all, of their lives in public service. This inequity is compounded by the federal Social Security Offsets, which penalize Maine’s public employees by reducing or eliminating Social Security benefits they earned. LD 162, An Act to Eliminate the State Income Tax on Maine Public Employee Retirement System Pensions, sponsored by Senator Shenna Bellows, would address this problem by eliminating the state income tax on MainePERS pensions. It was carried over from the last legislative session. Speaking in support of LD 162, State Rep. and MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Donna Doore of Augusta explained why the legislation is necessary: “State and (Participating Local District) employees are penalized by having any amount over $10,000 of their MainePERS retirement taxed. If someone collects Social Security, they are not taxed on it. This leaves state employees (and PLD employees) with a disadvantage and it is not fair.” Ask the Legislature’s Taxation Committee to support LD 162. Email the committee at: TAX@legislature.maine.gov. LD 162 would provide some relief to retired state workers and retired educators most impacted by the permanent and significant cuts made in 2011 to their pensions. Cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, were frozen for three years. When the COLAs resumed, they were calculated on a base of $20,000 per year, adjusted for inflation, with a maximum CPI increase of 3% per year. For those retired state workers and retired educators who were career public servants with pensions higher than $20,000 per year, they permanently lost earnings on that amount above the $20,000 base. The total permanent impact to retirees was $1.7 billion. Treat MainePERS pensions the same as Social Security for income-tax purposes. Ask the Taxation Committee to support LD 162.

Updated: January 16, 2020 — 8:45 AM