PORTLAND — The scale of Maine’s outstanding pension debt threatens the state’s economy and will dissuade business development if left unchecked.

That was the message delivered to several hundred business people today by State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, who spoke at Portland Regional Chamber’s monthly business breakfast at the Holiday Inn By the Bay.

Poliquin said the state will be in “one heck of a pickle” if steps are not taken to fund roughly $4.3 billion in pension obligations for teachers and state workers.  He called the pension shortfall the most critical chunk of Maine’s total debt, which totals $12.7 billion.

Poliquin said that, relative to the state’s GDP, Maine’s pension debt dwarfs pension issues facing other states.

“It’s different for our small, low-wage economy,” he said.

Poliquin called Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal a fair, shared-sacrifice plan to address the problem.

That proposal calls for a temporary freeze on cost- of-living adjustments to pension payments and a 2 percent increase in the amount of their salary that employees contribute to their pension.
Poliquin said reducing the pension debt will attract more business to the state.

“Fiscal prudence is the foundation of a healthy private sector.”

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