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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

During the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with a number of folks and talk about my time as Governor.

I’m proud of the work that’s been done and many of the things that have been accomplished.

I was speaking with a reporter just this week, and he asked me: What’s your favorite memory as Governor, or the one accomplishment you’ll always remember.

When you think about the things that have happened since I was elected in 2002, it’s a hard question to answer.

I grew up in a family of eight kids. And my parents always taught us that none of us was better than the rest and that we’re all on the same level.

So asking about a most memorable event is like asking a parent which child they like the best.

But the question has given me the opportunity to think about the things that matter most.

We have worked hard to protect Maine’s special places and our environment.

With the support of thousands of people, we completed Governor Baxter’s vision with the protection of Katahdin Lake.

We have preserved more than a million acres of land, which will be available for hunting, fishing, canoeing and hiking and other traditional uses for generations to come.

We’ve made major advances in restructuring government, making it more efficient at all levels, reducing its size and reducing costs.

We’ve rebuilt our financial reserves, and we’ve held the line on taxes, despite the worst recession since the Great Depression. And the cost of doing business continues to go down.

We’ve created a comprehensive energy policy that will reduce our State’s dependence on foreign oil, strengthen our economy and protect our air and water.

When I took office, we made it a top priority to expand access to health insurance and to help Maine people be healthier.

Maine now ranks sixth-best in the country for health insurance coverage, and we’re the eighth healthiest state in the country.

Our reforms have reduced the rate of growth in health care premiums.

And deductibles, on average, in Maine have actually gone down.

People are living healthier lives today in part because of the work we have been able to do collectively with the Legislature and the people of Maine.

But when I think about all the important moments I’ve had the opportunity to experience, there’s one that sticks out and that I’ll never forget.

Not long after I took office in 2003, we learned that the paper mill in Lincoln, Maine was being placed in bankruptcy and headed for closure.

I had to declare a State of Emergency to protect the assets from the bankruptcy attorneys who wanted the parts of the mill, leaving hundreds of workers with few options.

My team got busy to save those jobs and get the mill re-opened.

We were successful.

And on the day those men and women went back to work, I stood at the gates to welcome them – shaking their hands.

I remember the steam coming out of the mill pipes, and the looks on the faces of folks, who not long before, had wondered how they would be able to make ends meet.

There was this one man in particular. Rugged-looking, carrying his lunch own pail in his hand as he came up to work.

He walked toward the gates, and tears began to run down his face.

I knew at that moment on that day, that my job as Governor would be to focus on the working men and women of this State, and to try to improve their lives.

Since then, we have fought hard to keep the mills open in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Old Town and around the state.

We’ve gotten involved in Prospect Harbor, Windham and Brunswick Naval Air Station.

We’ve successfully fought for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services in Limestone, Maine.

And we’ve worked hard to bring economic development to communities all around this State.

Our Pine Tree Zone Economic Development program has helped 309 companies as of September either come to the State of Maine or expand here if they were already located.

These companies have made more than $800 million dollars in capital investments, created more than 8,000 jobs with good benefits and account for more than $300 million dollars in payroll.

The recession we’ve been fighting against since 2008 has taken its toll.

But I never lost faith in the skills, integrity and strength of the Maine workforce.

As our economy begins to grow again and corporate profits recover, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the backbone of our State and the nation are those men and women who grab their lunch pails, walk through those gates and do an honest day’s work and deserve an honest day’s pay in return.

They’ve made Maine strong and will lead us in a time of new prosperity and opportunity.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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