Under a new law, Maine state employees are allowed to retire, collect their full benefits and then be instantly rehired for the same job. The state saves $20,000 to $30,000 on each position, because health insurance and other benefits are funded through the separate retirement system.

The retire and rehire legislation passed through the legislature without dissent last year and covers all state employees, although that was not its original intent. "The idea was that it would return people from retirement to teach," says Steve Crouse, a lobbyist with the Maine Education Association. "The reality is that it's retained people longer than they would have stayed on otherwise."

So far, the number of employees who have taken advantage of the offer totals only in the dozens and includes teachers as well as law enforcement officials and others. Crouse predicts more people will sign up as news of the program spreads. There is little danger, however, that the state will be inundated with more workers than it needs. The law stipulates that the state is under no obligation to rehire a retired worker.

One advantage the rehiring package has for the state is the ability to "hire" a worker who does not need training. And, as baby boomers age toward retirement, the state will be in a position to keep up with personnel demands.

The law lifted a cap on the amount of money a state worker or teacher could earn if hired for a similar job after retiring. State officials have likened the new approach to a military retiree receiving benefits while working for another government agency.