AUGUSTA, Maine — A state employees union said Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has notified workers in the Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services that it intends to lay them off, likely signaling a priority in the governor’s two-year budget to be released on Friday.
It’s just an initial move from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, with a union saying 26 workers are affected. But they’re still on the job, and the state’s budget will likely look much different when it is finalized by the Maine Legislature this spring.
The Republican governor’s budget is due to the Maine Legislature by Friday’s end, and for months, he has hinted in radio interviews and public appearances over the last half-year that it will contain reductions in the state workforce and income tax cuts.
On Friday, Mary Anne Turowski, the director of politics and legislation for the Maine State Employees Association, said 26 workers in the Office of Aging and Disability Services had received notices of intent to layoff from the administration.
Turowski said those employees work in offices in Bangor, South Portland, Lewiston, Ellsworth, Machias, Rockland, South Paris and Farmington, “but it could be just the tip of the iceberg.”
DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards didn’t respond to an email seeking comment, but Peter Steele, a LePage spokesman, said that “departments have the discretion to inform employees about any potential workforce reductions before they see misinformation in the media about a budget process that hasn’t even started.”
Turowski called it ironic that those layoffs, which would affect a group of employees that include caseworkers, would affect services to elderly and disabled Mainers, “the very population for which the governor says he wants to improve services for in this budget.”
“At the end of the day, despite the governor’s consistent pitch to add jobs to this economy, it seems that he only wants to take away,” she said.
The union has been on-guard for layoffs in the budget since July 2016, when the Portland Press Herald published a leaked memo from the LePage administration that set a goal of cutting the state’s workforce by 2,300 people — or more than 19 percent.
On Friday morning, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the budget would be released to the Legislature and public “later” on Friday and legislative leaders were told by the administration that they wouldn’t be briefed until Monday.
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