AUGUSTA — The Maine Association of Retirees is suing the state retirement system over changes made last year to retirement benefits received by retired state workers and teachers.

The suit, filed today in federal District Court in Bangor, alleges that the state did not have the power to alter the plan. Specifically, the group is objecting to a freeze in cost of living adjustments for three years, a new cap on the cost of living increase, and limits on future adjustments to 3 percent on the first $20,000 of a retiree’s pension.

“The suit seeks to vindicate the principle that those benefits cannot and should not be diminished or eliminated by the Legislature once a state worker or public school teacher has retired,” according to a press release from the Maine Association of Retirees.

The changes affect an estimated 28,000 retired state workers and teachers. They were part of the state budget passed last year that attempted to lower the long-term debt in the state retirement system. A series of changes implemented to the system reduced the debt from about $4 billion to about $2.3 billion.

Sandy Matheson, executive director of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, said this morning that she could not immediately offer comment because the agency had not yet been formally served.

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