A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on Gov. Janet Mills to include in her supplemental budget an increase in pensions for teachers and other state employees and public servants that matches the rate of inflation.

Beneficiaries of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System received a 3 percent increase in their pensions over the summer – the maximum allowed under state law without Legislative approval. But that increase does not cover the 5.4 percent inflation rate last year and is lower than the 5.9 percent increase given to Social Security recipients.

The request comes as Mills prepares to release a supplemental budget that will recommend uses for at least some of the state’s projected $800 million surplus. The governor has expressed support for returning some of that money to people struggling with rising costs from inflation but has not provided details about how that would be accomplished.

A group of 63 lawmakers, comprising 18 senators, including Republican Maryann Moore, and 45 representatives, including Republicans Timothy Roche, of Wells; Sheila Lyman, of Livermore Falls; and Billy Bob Faulkingham, of Winter Harbor; is urging Mills to include an additional 2.4 percent increase in her supplemental budget.

The onetime cost-of-living increase for all beneficiaries would cost $14.7 million, according to MainePERS. However, the lawmakers are requesting a more permanent increase for pensioners, many of whom are ineligible for Social Security, unless they previously worked in the private sector.

“Put simply, retired public servants are disadvantaged in retirement in a multitude of ways,” lawmakers said. “We cannot allow them to fall further behind.”


Increasing the baseline benefit would cost $146.7 million, according to Kathy Morin, manager of actuarial and legislative affairs for MainePERS.

In the fiscal year ending July 1, MainePERS provided benefits to 48,140 retirees and beneficiaries – former teachers, state employees, judicial workers and public safety personnel. That means, the average additional amount each pensioner would receive if the one-time increase were approved would be around $305.

Lawmakers, including Democratic leaders, noted in their letter a history of benefit reductions, including changes by former Gov. Paul LePage and a previous Legislature that reduced the maximum COLA from 4 percent to 3 percent.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Mills “shares the concerns expressed by the lawmakers in their letter and will take their request into consideration as she finalizes her forthcoming supplemental budget.”

“She, too, recognizes the challenges retirees are facing as a result of cuts by the previous administration and Legislature – challenges that have become more difficult with rising costs – and she will evaluate ways that she can work with the Legislature in a fiscally responsible manner to benefit retirees,” Mills spokesperson Lindsay Crete said in an email.

House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham and Assistant Minority Leader Joel Stetkis, did not return an email Friday seeking comment about the proposal.


Scarborough resident Penny Whitney-Asdourian, 64, retired in 2011 after working for 33 years in the court system. She said the state’s pension plan was a primary reason she worked in the public sector, where she made less than she could have in the private sector.

But the cost-of-living adjustments are not enough to keep pace with rising costs, she said, especially in the last year. Both she and her husband, a retired firefighter, are working part-time jobs to make ends meet.

“Every month when you look at your bills you’re holding your breath,” she said.

Whitney-Asdourian said she and her husband are savers and have planned their retirement. But as a board member of the state employees union, she has heard from plenty of others who are worried about being able to remain in their homes.

“That’s what this is coming down to,” she said. “Retirees are not just going to be unable to maintain the level of comfort they have now – they’re not going to be able to maintain the basics they have now if we don’t do something about it.”



Peggy Brown, of Brunswick, retired from teaching in 2018 and her husband retired from firefighting in 2014. Over the last few years, she has watched her buying power dry up and worries about what that will mean for their future.

“Just like everybody we’re feeling the bite of inflation, filling up the gas tank and going to the grocery store,” Brown said. “We’re just watching our regular monthly allowance going to the essentials.”

Mills is expected to release her supplemental budget shortly after her State of the State speech on Thursday. She has expressed an interest in returning a portion of that surplus to people who are struggling with increased prices in gasoline, home heating fuel, groceries and the like, but she also has expressed caution about returning or spending too much of it.

Mills previously sent $285 checks to people who worked during the pandemic, but retirees who did not have jobs did not receive those checks.

The MainePERS Board of Trustees is required to provide annual cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. Those increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers for the 12-month period ending each June. The COLA is only applied to the first $22,650 of benefits.

In an August letter to Mills, the board of trustees said it was required under law to submit a supplemental budget request, when inflation exceed the 3 percent limit.

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