November 15, 2022
130th Maine Legislature — Enacted 2022 Bipartisan State Budget delivers targeted relief, invests in services, strengthens our retirement security
Retiree Members Phil Garwood, Rob Peale and MSEA-SEIU Retiree Director Steve Butterfield lobbied legislators in March 2022 in support of the pension relief legislation enacted into law via the 2022 Bipartisan State Budget.
In April, the Legislature passed the 2022 Bipartisan State Budget and Governor Janet Mills signed it into law the following day. The budget earned unanimous support in the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee; it delivers targeted relief to Mainers, including the $850 relief checks, and invests in workforce training, education and child care, and funding for nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care.
The budget makes key improvements to MainePERS retirement pensions. It increased the 2021 cumulative cost of living adjustment (COLA) by an additional 1% and added an additional 2.4% to the pension base, both for participants in the State/Teacher/Legislative/Judicial Retirement Plan.
For all retired Maine workers, including all MainePERS participants, the budget exempts the first $25,000 in pension income from state income tax beginning next year, and increases that exemption by $5,000 a year until it matches the Social Security exemption. This is all a step forward toward reversing the devastating cuts made by former Governor Paul LePage and the 125th Legislature and in 2011.
We are also excited to see funding for a dedicated overnight and weekend shift within the Office of Child and Family Services; this will help provide much-needed relief for Child Protective Caseworkers, who are currently facing overwhelming caseloads and unsustainable levels of mandatory overtime. The budget also contains numerous reclassification and additional positions within various departments of state government.
While we weren’t able to secure supplemental funding to close the state employee pay gap this session, MSEA-SEIU members made the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee aware of the urgent need to close the pay gap. The work on the Compensation and Classification Study continues. We will continue to push to fund and implement the results of that work in the next biennial budget and in next year’s Executive Branch contract negotiations.
In addition to the investments in our members and the services we provide, the supplemental budget also makes key investments to help all working families in Maine. But make no mistake: The gains we made in this supplemental budget only happened because so many members showed up and made their voices heard.
We packed the halls of the State House; we made calls and wrote emails; we made the Legislature listen to our concerns.
The initial supplemental budget proposal included a one-time 2.4% retiree cost of living adjustment that cost $14 million; because of our advocacy, the budget now includes approximately $105 million for MainePERS pension improvements! Let’s build on this momentum by electing pro-worker candidates in the Nov. 8, 2022, General Elections. That way, we can continue to make progress with a pro-worker, pro-union Legislature in 2023.