The current Maine state retirement system has two problems:

* It’s not sustainable.

* It’s too generous compared to Social Security. Hard-pressed taxpayers should not be paying for this generosity.

The www.maineopengov.org website is worth investigating for Maine pension facts. A quick comparison shows that Maine pensions are far more generous than those provided by Social Security, increasingly the only plan available to private-sector workers.

I reviewed the state pensions of two random acquaintances who both retired at approximately age 62. The first, a teacher, worked 38 years, paid $72,643 into the system, and collected a pension of $39,346 in 2009.

The second, a state worker of 31 years paid $45,987 into the system and collected $41,664 in 2009.

Both retirees are projected to collect more than $1.2 million based on assumptions made on the maineopengov.org website.

My recent Social Security statement indicates that, retiring at age 62 (in 2015), my annual pension is estimated as $18,636. I already have paid $81,471 into Social Security and will pay much more over the next four years. Assuming I receive the same cost-of-living-adjustment percentage increases used to project state pension lifetime benefits, I also could collect $1.2 million — but only by living to age 96.

Postponing retirement to age 66 or 70 also nets a pension far below that of the two state pensioners, even before considering inflation’s impact.

The Maine pension system is not perfect. Its lack of portability hurts short-term employees. But, for long-term employees, the retirement benefit is certainly better than Social Security.

Gov. Paul LePage’s reforms will help preserve the Maine pension system and put it on a sustainable path. Denying the reality of the problem is not a viable option for either Maine taxpayers or state employees.

Neal Patterson

Waterville


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