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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

I hope those of you who are listening to this message find themselves in the comfort of family and friends.

Christmas is that season.

It reminds us of what is most precious in our lives, and gives us an opportunity to share our blessings with each other.

So as deep cold and harsh weather moves into Maine, we can draw closer together with our families and within our communities.

Whether it’s at midnight Mass at church, or a children’s music festival, or a performance of the Nutcracker Suite, there are gatherings that bring us together to appreciate what enriches us.

This is a time of traditions and cherishing those around us.

When the shopping and the gift wrapping, and the cooking and the decorating are done, we can relax with the people we care about the most and appreciate the wonders of this season.

All across Maine, there are individuals and groups that are collecting warm clothes, food and toys, trying to help their neighbors to have a better holiday.

Even in these hard times, Maine people have open hearts and give of themselves.

Because we all want to know that those in our communities are warm, safe and secure.

This caring for each other is what the Christmas season is all about.

I’ve been reminded countless times as Governor of the independent, self-reliant, yet very generous spirit that Maine people possess.

I’ve seen it exhibited literally thousands of times.

Whether it’s the Troop Greeters as they’ve traveled at a moment’s notice - sometimes in the middle of the night - to the Bangor International Airport to welcome a group of our soldiers flying out or arriving back from overseas.

I’ve seen neighbor helping neighbor through severe storms that threaten people’s ability to stay in their homes.

I’ve seen business owners fight every day to keep up the payroll during this deepest economic recession since the Great Depression.

And I’ve seen Maine workers going above and beyond the call to provide important and sometimes life-saving services for neighbors and strangers alike.

Each of us has opportunities every day to do our best to make the world around us a better and warmer place.

And I’ve been privileged during these past eight years to work with so many high-caliber, dedicated people.

In the public and private sectors across this State, there are people doing their best to make their communities the most prosperous and healthy they can be.

I’ve worked with remarkable people from different backgrounds and political persuasions.

And I’m proud of what we have accomplished together.

While other states found their leaders mired in partisan politics, the Maine Legislature worked with my administration to pass successive bipartisan budgets.

And those budgets contained hard choices and deep cuts. They impacted every person in this State.

To put the financial strain in perspective, the recession required us to cut spending so that the 2011 budget is at the same level it as it was in 2001.

So over the ten-year span, that means we’ve had to do much more with much less.

We’ve reduced the size of government, with 1000 fewer State workers, maintaining the critical safety net for those in need, and maintaining the quality of services taxpayers expect and deserve.

We’ve continued the commitment to Maine people by investing in education, innovation and growing Maine’s economy.

And because we need to balance our books and keep an eye to getting all Mainers back on their feet, we also knew that we couldn’t raise taxes.

We couldn’t increase the burden that Maine families and businesses face.

And it’s beginning to pay off. Companies are investing in our people, and slowly adding jobs back.

The choices we’ve made were difficult, but we met the challenges head-on and honestly.

We succeeded where many other states have stumbled because Mainers put aside the interests of the few for the good of the many.

I know it hasn’t been an easy road. And we still have a ways to go.

But we should be proud that we have stood together, and that the hard decisions we have made will put our State in a better position for years to come.

All during this holiday season I also want to remember and thank the members of the active duty Armed Forces and the Maine National Guard for their service far from home.

We particularly feel their absence during the holidays and pray for their safe return.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

Thank you.

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