Two Maine State Police troopers were among dozens of State workers who appeared before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Monday to describe how the state pay freeze in 2013 has impacted their family finances to the point where they, literally, cannot afford to feed their children or buy oil to keep them warm.
They urged adoption of a bill, LD 1639, that would restore about $6 million over the current two-year budget cycle to the state’s general and transportation funds for the purpose of merit and longevity pay increases.
Trooper Joe Brown stated he had even resorted to collecting road kill to help feed his family of six.
“During the winter seasons, we often have to buy heating oil a few gallons at a time, because we rarely can afford the minimal delivery amount,” Trooper Elgin Physic, of Lewiston, told the committee, adding that some nights they just do not have enough fuel to warm their homes and the children wake up to a freezing cold house.. “Due to the merit stoppage, this year, I had to sell my wife’s engagement ring, military souvenirs from the war and other personal items just to make ends,” he said.
The troopers explained that the state employees most hurt by the wage freeze are those just starting their careers and those who, like him, took state jobs just before merit and longevity wage freezes were implemented.
“We have young families to support, but are making significantly less than our peers,” Physic wrote in testimony presented to the committee Monday.
Both troopers said their financial situations were a result of merit and longevity pay increases that were put on hold in the previous budget cycle as a means to solve the state’s revenue shortfall.
Brown said his family depends on the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare, for health insurance and that they have also been enrolled in the state’s food-stamp program.
Brown explained that he is also a hunter and uses the game he shoots to help feed his family, including six children.
“I am a hunter because the meat I hunt is necessary to feed my family,” Brown said. “I do not hesitate to collect a deer carcass from the roadway; this is necessary to provide for my family.”
Neither Trooper was on duty when they testified and both Physic and Brown stressed that they felt the agreement they made with the state was in good faith, based on a schedule of regular pay raises and affordable health benefits.
“When I was recruited, I was not promised that the budget would be balanced on my back,” Brown said.
State Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, a committee member, said the testimony from state workers was, “simply heart wrenching…When you hear from state workers who are working at least 40 hours a week and these are the same people who are qualifying for public assistance, that is simply not OK — it’s wrong.”
“Every single one of these individuals goes to work every day and does their very best and have not had any type of pay increase or even acknowledgement of how long they’ve been doing their job for five years,” Cain added.
There was no testimony in opposition to the measure Monday and the committee will likely consider the bill during a work session soon, although a date has not been set.
ROAD KILL: TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT—IS IT AN ETHICAL QUESTION?
Montana became the latest state to legalize the salvaging and eating of road-killed animals. On November 26, 2013, the state began issuing permits y allowing people to salvage road kill. The permits will only be issued for carcasses of deer, elk, moose and antelope.
It is illegal to salvage roadkill in Washington and California, it's illegal to collect road kill. Idaho allows certain types of road kill to be salvaged, but only if you notify Idaho Fish and Game. Utah allows big game road kill to be collected. Colorado allows road kill. The Christian Science Monitor on the Montana legislation, which notes that PETA supports salvaging road kill so the animals' carcasses don't go to waste.
Click here for Marketplace's very interesting and informative interactive map about each state's road kill law.