AUGUSTA — Citing higher wages in neighboring states and communities within Maine, Governor Paul LePage is pushing for pay increases of 12 to 18 percent for state law enforcement personnel.
The proposal would cover state troopers, game wardens, Marine Patrol officers, Capitol Police officers and the Fire Marshal’s Office.
Rep. Kenneth Fredette (R-Newport), the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, has presented LD 1653 on behalf of LePage. The bill would institute pay increases that, if approved, would go into effect starting May 1.
“Law enforcement officers across Maine put their lives on the line every day to protect the Maine people,” said LePage in a statement, “and the value of their public service ought to be reflected in a decent salary.”
Public Safety Commissioner John Morris said recruitment for state law enforcement positions is a challenge. The Maine State Police, for example, has 324 total positions within the agency and 32 of them — 10 percent — are vacant.
Filling those vacancies takes on a higher urgency because 25 members of the state police are eligible for retirement this year.
Morris said the state has seen a “dramatic decrease” in applicants for state police posts, and said pay is a factor. He said other state police agencies in New England average $6 to $14 more per hour, and said some municipal police departments in Maine, particularly the southern part of the state, also pay more.
The starting hourly wage for a state trooper in Maine is $18.57. In New Hampshire, that rate is $23.19 ($4.62 higher), while in Vermont it is $27 ($8.43 higher). The starting pay rate for an officer in the Gorham Police Department, Morris reported, is $25.82 per hour ($7.25 higher).
The bill proposes to make the following percentage pay raises for particular positions:
- 12 percent for sergeants and lieutenants in the Warden Service and Marine Patrol as well as Marine Patrol pilot supervisors.
- 13 percent for state troopers, Capitol Police officers, fire investigators and Warden Service investigators and specialists.
- 14 percent for Warden Service pilot supervisors.
- 15 percent for state police corporals, detectives, pilots and various specialist positions within the agency, game wardens, Marine Patrol officers, Capitol Police sergeants and the senior fire investigator and fire investigations sergeant within the Fire Marshal’s Office.
- 17 percent for Warden Service pilots.
- 18 percent for state police and Capitol Police lieutenants and Marine Patrol specialists.
According to the Legislature’s website, the fiscal impact of the bill has not been determined.
LePage accused Democrats of trying to incorporate his proposal into a larger budget bill, a move he said he is adamantly he opposed to.
“Legislators can either pass a stand-alone bill for law enforcement wages, or I will call them back in this summer to deal with this again,” he said. “The choice is theirs.”