Help pass a responsible state budget
Call your state senator and state representative! Ask them to support a responsible state budget that keeps people working and provides quality services. Ask them to support a state budget that strengthens our state. Ask them to support The Opportunity Agenda. It rejects unnecessary cuts without raising additional taxes. To find the contact info for your legislators, go to this link.
MSEA-SEIU retiree member Jim Betts, at center in the “Stronger Together” shirt, asks that fellow MSEA-SEIU retiree member and State Rep. Donna Doore oppose the administration’s proposal to lay off at least 265 state workers and eliminate at least 208 vacant state worker positions. Jim also asked Rep. Doore to oppose the Governor’s proposed two-year freeze on the cost of living adjustment to the pensions of retired state workers and retired teachers.
April 13 update on the next two-year state budget —
Reject layoffs, position cuts, members urge legislators
MSEA-SEIU members and staff are working closely with state legislators and legislative committees to ensure the next two-year state budget is a responsible one that funds the quality public services Maine people count on.
The Governor submitted a bad budget proposal to legislators in January. In it, the Governor proposed laying off at least 265 state workers and eliminating at least 208 vacant state worker positions.
Since then, legislative committees have held hearings and work sessions, and have made their recommendations to the Appropriations Committee. MSEA-SEIU members and staff have been testifying and speaking with legislators in support of keeping the targeted positions. Members also have been testifying on legislation impacting quality public services.
Some of the ensuing committee recommendations have been unanimous in support of funding positions that the Governor wants to eliminate. Other recommendations have been by a majority vote. Nothing, however, is final at this point as the next two-year state budget remains in development.
Below are updates as of press time as to where things stand with many of the jobs and positions the Governor has targeted for elimination.
The Governor has proposed eliminating and privatizing 27 currently filled case manager positions within the Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS). He has proposed relocating 21 other OADS positions, needlessly disrupting services and forcing some long-term employees to make difficult decisions. He has proposed eliminating and privatizing at least five currently filled positions that comprise the Medical Review Team. Plus he has proposed eliminating 36 Maine CDC positions, further compromising Maine’s public health structure. The positions targeted for elimination include at least 12 public health nursing positions.
We have made sure legislators know the administration’s proposals undermine the ability of Maine DHHS to carry out its mission of serving Maine people. There’s no fiscal savings. There’s no rationale for cutting these services.
At our urging, the Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services recommended, in 7-6 vote, to keep funding the targeted positions listed above.
DOWN EAST CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
The Governor proposed closing Down East Correctional Facility in Machiasport.
Workers from Downeast Correctional Facility traveled to the State House Feb. 16 to testify against the Governor’s proposal. State Sen. Joyce Maker of Calais and State Reps. Will Tuell of East Machias and Robert Alley of Beals, all of whom are members of the Legislature’s Down East delegation, joined us in testifying against the proposed closure, as did Down East business owners and Machias Town Manager Christina Therrien.
At our urging, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended keeping Down East Correctional Facility open.
EDUCATORS AT LONG CREEK YOUTH DEVELOPMENT CENTER
The Governor proposed eliminating and privatizing the jobs of educators at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. The educators provide direct care to vulnerable Maine youth. We urged the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to reject the Governor’s scheme as it appears arbitrary and without regard for the public services Maine people need.
“Our students’ population has incredible mental health and substance abuse issues that have extremely limited their functioning,” seven workers wrote in their testimony. “These are not students we can put on a computer to learn and eliminate our teaching staff. They need qualified teachers committed to their educational and social growth. They need qualified teachers to provide them with the same educational opportunities that are provided to other students in this state. They need an approved school with enough certified teachers to provide their educational programming. Cutting the teacher staffing at Long Creek would remove their rights to a proper education, a right that they have even if they are committed to Long Creek.”
At our urging, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended keeping the educators at Long Creek.
SECURITY SCREENERS AT STATE HOUSE
The Governor in his bad budget also proposed eliminating the jobs of the security screeners at the State House. MSEA-SEIU members and staff testified about the incredible work the screeners do keeping dangerous items out of the State House. Each year, the screeners X-ray between 70,000 and 105,000 items, and they stop, or hold, more than 1,000 items per year. They do their jobs exceptionally well, and they keep us all safe.
At our urging, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended keeping the security screeners.
ASSISTANT PARK RANGERS AND LABORER IN THE STATE PARKS
The Governor claims to support job creation, yet his proposed budget eliminates jobs. We testified against the Governor’s proposed elimination of at least 29 jobs within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: 15 Assistant Park Rangers, nine Laborer I’s, two Senior Planners, one Hydrologist, one Historic Site Specialist and one Public Service Manager II.
At our urging, the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee unanimously recommended keeping the targeted Assistant Park Ranger and Laborer I positions. A majority of the committee members voted to keep the other targeted positions. Committee members also recommended providing the parks with $100,000 in funding for equipment necessary to maintain the state parks.
All of the recommendations relating to these positions occurred after we explained to legislators that the proposal to eliminate these jobs is deeply flawed. It creates a crisis where none exists. Eliminating these jobs would undermine everything people have come to expect when they visit a state park. In 2016, a record nearly 2.9 million people visited our state parks.
At our state parks, assistant park rangers provide a level of service that Maine people count on and deserve for their own safety. The assistant park rangers enforce state and park rules. They provide emergency services ranging from first aid to CPR. They conduct search and rescue, and assist individuals with physical or mental health needs. They settle disputes, recognize and contain public hazards, and act as Park Rangers on the Ranger’s days off. They make park repairs to plumbing and equipment. They collect fees. They provide information to park visitors, making a visit to a Maine state park an educational experience for everyone from children to seniors.
Yet the administration proposed doing away with these jobs and privatize maintenance – even though it acknowledged there would be no cost savings at all. This latest privatization scheme comes as the administration substantially increased rates for park passes, camping and user fees. The administration increased the cost of a Maine State Park Pass by 50 percent for 2017, from $70 to $105. If these job eliminations go through, we fear visitors will pay more but get less from their state park experience.
The workers in the targeted positions are knowledgeable and reliable. Many bring years of return experience, while other seasonal workersfind their jobs so fulfilling they pursue full-time careers in public services in forestry, parks or law enforcement. Eliminating the jobs targeted in Part A thus could worsen the public employee recruitment and retention crisis all departments are experiencing.
CONSERVATION AIDE POSITIONS AND TWO FISH CULTURALIST POSITIONS
We also are talking with legislators in support of the Conservation Aide and Fish Culturalist positions the Governor has proposed for elimination.
Your actions in support of our legislative priorities helped secure these victories for workers and retired workers during the 127th Maine Legislature spanning 2015 and 2016
During the 127th Maine Legislature covering the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions, MSEA-SEIU members called, emailed and personally lobbied their legislators in support of fellow Maine workers and retirees. Through respectful conversations, you helped persuade state legislators to approve:
- 2.55 percent cost of living adjustments to pensions of eligible retired state workers and teachers in September 2015 and again in September 2016.
- Emergency legislation providing wage adjustments to Riverview/Dorothea Dix workers.
- Legislation providing wage adjustments for supervisors of law enforcement and other law-enforcement personnel.
- The bipartisan state budget compromise of 2015 providing $2 million for raises for home care workers. Other legislation funded another $250,000 over the next two years for raises for personal care attendants.
In addition, during the 127th Maine Legislature, we built the political support necessary to pass legislation improving the safety of the Maine State Ferry Service. We secured the political support necessary to pass legislation funding our tentative contractual agreements throughout state government. We built the political support necessary to defeat anti-worker proposals pushed by the Governor.
Outside of the 127th Maine Legislature, in the summer of 2016, we worked with current and former legislative allies, among others, and helped persuade the administration to reverse its announced closure of the Maine DHHS office in Fort Kent.
Below is a detailed summary of the legislative gains mentioned above.
RETIREMENT SECURITY LEGISLATION
LD 86, “An Act To Improve Retirement Security for Retired Public Employees,” became law July 12, 2015, without the Governor’s signature. This law provided eligible retired state workers and teachers cost of living adjustments (COLAs) of 2.55 percent added to their base pensions in September 2015 and again in September 2016. Total value to all eligible retired state workers and teachers is about $14 million per year. Current state workers and teachers who participate in the retirement system benefit from LD 86; it raises the maximum pension base for COLA-calculation purposes. Prior to the passage of LD 86, the current maximum pension base for COLA-calculation purposes was $20,420. The 2.55 percent COLA that took effect in September 2015 increased the maximum pension base for COLA-calculation purposes to $20,940. The 2.55 percent COLA taking effect in September 2016 increased the pension base again, this time to $21,474 for COLA-calculation purposes.
EMERGENCY WAGE ADJUSTMENT LEGISLATION FOR RIVERVIEW/DOROTHEA DIX WORKERS
LD 1645, “An Act to Improve Employee Recruitment and Retention at the State Mental Health Institutions,” sponsored by Senator Katz, was enacted unanimously in the Senate and 109-40 in the House. The Governor vetoed the bill. On April 29, 2016, at our urging, and with direct lobbying by our members and legislative sponsors, the Senate overrode the veto 34-1 and the House overrode 116-25. The emergency legislation took effect July 1, 2016.
WAGE PARITY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT SUPERVISORS AND CERTAIN STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
LD 1523, “Resolve, to Provide Wage Parity for Law Enforcement Supervisors,” sponsored by Senator Davis, originally was passed to provide a 5 percent wage adjustment to all the supervisory law enforcement officers MSEA-SEIU represents. The Appropriations Committee, with a unanimous vote, amended LD 1523 to include the Governor’s law enforcement wage bill (LD 1653). LD 1653 proposed increasing wages for certain state law enforcement officers from 12 to 18 percent. LD 1523 had previously received a unanimous vote of support in the Senate and a 142-2 vote in the House. LD 1523 will be paid for out of salary savings. All MSEA-SEIU law enforcement supervisors receive a wage adjustment ranging from 5 to 18 percent.
TWO-YEAR STATE BUDGET: RAISES FOR HOME CARE WORKERS, INCREASED FUNDING FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM
The bipartisan state budget compromise of 2015 added $2 million for raises for home care workers, increased funding for the Maine Community College System by $6 million and allowed new retirees to buy back income lost to merit and longevity pay freezes in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. In addition, LD 1350, “Resolve, to Increase the Reimbursement Rate for Direct-Care Workers Serving Adults with Long-Term Care Needs,” sponsored by Maine House Speaker Mark Eves, funded an additional $250,000 over the next two years for wage increases for personal care attendants. This is over and above the funding in the bipartisan state budget compromise.
EMERGENCY LEGISLATION IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF FERRIES IN MAINE
LD 1468, “Resolve, To Improve the Safety of Ferries in State,” sponsored by Senator Miramant, was enacted in both houses and vetoed by the Governor. At our urging, and with lobbying by our members and the legislative sponsors, the Senate overrode the veto April 29. The vote was 35-0 in the Senate and 113-32 in the House. The bill is law.
WE DEFEATED ANTI-WORKER PROPOSALS BY THE GOVERNOR
LDs 1663 and 1664, both submitted by the Governor, attempted to make changes to the State’s civil service system.
LD 1663, “An Act to Promote Employee Recruitment and Retention,” would have changed the current merit pay system from merit pay awarded based on standards of performance to one requiring meritorious performance that exceeds satisfactory performance. It also would have implemented a recruitment bonus. LD 1663 was voted out of the State and Local Government Committee with a majority ought not to pass (7-6) recommendation. LD 1663 then passed in the Senate but failed in the House, which means it died between the chambers.
LD 1664, “An Act to Enable the State to Hire Qualified Applicants,” was voted out of same committee with a majority ought not to pass (7-6) recommendation and died in non-concurrence between the chambers. LD 1664 would have altered the current practice of applicants qualifying based on a combination of experience and education.
We supported, as amended, the Governor’s LD 1668, “An Act to Facilitate Internal Hiring by Reforming the Use of Registers in Civil Service Rules,” which eliminated outdated language relating to registers. It also allows the HR director to extend one-year temporary positions based on unusual circumstances. This bill passed out of committee with a unanimous ought to pass recommendation, was enacted into law by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. LD 1668 is now law.
WE BUILT THE POLITICAL SUPPORT NECESSARY TO PASS LEGISLATION FUNDING OUR TENTATIVE CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS IN ALL THREE BRANCHES OF STATE GOVERNMENT
- EXECUTIVE BRANCH: In September 2015, MSEA-SEIU members in the Executive Branch’s Administrative, Professional-Technical and Supervisory Services bargaining units ratified their tentative contractual agreements. Because the contracts were ratified prior to the Sept. 29, 2015, deadline listed in the legislation funding tentative agreements, state workers in those three bargaining units secured the union-negotiated, across-the-board wage increases of 1 percent effective October 2015 and another 1 percent effective July 2016. In addition, hours before the Maine Legislature adjourned April 29, 2016, for the year, state legislators at our urging approved the emergency legislation known as LD 1702, “An Act to Fund Agreements with Bargaining Units for Certain Executive Branch employees,” sponsored by Senator Cushing. LD 1702 funded the tentative agreement in the State of Maine Executive Branch Operations, Maintenance and Support Services (OM&S) Bargaining Unit so long as it was ratified by May 31, 2016. Our members ratified it by that date.
- JUDICIAL BRANCH: In 2015, MSEA-SEIU members in all four of our Judicial Branch bargaining units — Administrative, Law Enforcement, Professional and Supervisory) — ratified two-year successor contracts. The four contracts, good through June 30, 2017, provide pay raises as follows: 1 percent starting the first pay period after Sept. 1, 2015; another 1 percent starting the first pay period after July 1, 2016; adding a step and dropping a step starting April 2016; employees whose hire date is on or before June 30, 2011, and who have uninterrupted Judicial Branch service, will receive an additional step increase at the start of the pay period closest to January 2017; the longevity pay freeze was removed; and mentor pay was established at an additional $1 per hour.
- LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: Also in 2015, MSEA-SEIU members in our Administrative Unit of Legislative Employees within the Legislative Branch unanimously ratified a two-year contract running from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2017. The contract includes a two-and-a-half percent wage increase during the first year of the contract, and a one-and-a-half-percent wage increase during the second year. Eligibility to advance to the last two steps now includes previous relevant experience. Part-time employees become step-eligible after passing probation and completing one year of service. The contract also improves vacation-leave language and restores compensating time for pay grades seven through 12.