Since 2009 some of the most utilized tools for the Legislature to balance state budgets were to freeze merit and longevity pay for state employees and make those employees pay more of their health insurance costs.

What most do not think about however, is the investment that has already been made in the state workforce with numerous budgets. For example, if you take a 25-year employee with a $30,000 per year salary in addition to benefits that Maine taxpayers have paid out, that investment totals over one million dollars. Hundreds of state employees have retired in the past two years, many because of the budget cuts and most all of them having 25 years of service or greater, making that lost investment likely total close to a billion dollars. With the continued budget cuts, more are leaving even before they reach retirement age and taking the investment of taxpayer dollars with them.

To make matters worse, some of these former state employees are choosing to work for private sector companies that the state has contracted with due to personnel shortages. Only now, those companies are charging twice as much or more for that employees’ services to do the same work they were doing previously. That’s not exactly a great deal for the taxpayer when all we would have had to pay is a few more dollars an hour of increased benefit and salary costs to retain that employee for the state.

The time has come for the Maine Legislature to realize that saving millions here or there on billions of dollars of taxpayer investment makes no sense, when the consequence is to lose much more. Maine taxpayers deserve to have their valuable investment in the state workforce protected.

Jonathan French

Hallowell

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