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Good morning.

I would like to thank you for tuning into today to the first of what will become a weekly radio address to the State of Maine.

As I sit here in the State House today, there is frantic activity going on as the Legislature works on the budget I presented in January.

I delivered to you a bold, aggressive plan that will transform State government, modernize MaineCare and reform a top-heavy school administrative system. Those plans have sparked an intense conversation in communities around the State and I have seen them firsthand in packed auditoriums from Portland to Presque Isle.

But the talking has now shifted to the Legislature where lawmakers are picking away at the budget, trying to find answers to the question that troubles us.

Unfortunately, too many voices in the State have fallen silent and allowed a vocal minority to have the field of debate to itself.

Right now, those with a vested interest in the status quo – those content to just say no to any change – are dominating the public discussion. They are using fear and misinformation to hide a simple truth. If Maine is to move forward, to continue to innovate, we cannot do the same old things in the same old way.

My plan for education would consolidate 290 school administrative districts into 26 and save State and local taxpayers $241 million over the first three years. While I will gladly consider reasonable changes in the plan, I will not allow taxpayers to be cheated out of those savings.

If we were building a statewide education system from the ground up today, no one would argue for our current structure. It places too much emphasis on administration and not enough on the classroom. It cheats our students out of the resources they need to excel, and stifles the State’s ability to invest in its economy … all the while contributing to an unacceptably high tax burden.

My education plan provides real tax relief. It controls spending, focuses on student achievement and gives communities the resources to reduce property taxes.

But during last year’s campaign, many of the loudest voices demanded reduced state spending and tax relief. But during this debate about education reform – a real plan that cuts state spending and reduces taxes – those voices have fallen silent.

Where have they gone?

When I put my plan forward, I expected the hue and cry from the highly paid administrators who are trying to protect their own interests. I expected the arguments from school boards, reluctant to give up even a piece of their turf.

But I didn’t expect the silence from many of the state’s business and political leaders who for years have complained about State spending, high taxes and heavy-handed administration.

If you believe as I do, that the State’s tax burden is too high, that we must reach out to homeowners struggling with that burden every year, that significant savings can be achieved without harming critical services, then I need your help.

If you believe we need to improve science and math in our schools, I need your help.

If you believe that we need to invest in research, development innovation and private sector growth, I need your help.

As the Legislature wrangles with the difficult task of budget negotiations, it needs to hear from you.

Legislators need to know that parents, teachers and businesspeople throughout the state of Maine understand that change must come.

The forces that want to stop reform and entangle us with inaction are aligned. They are organized and effective, and their message is deceivingly simple: “Go slow, leave things alone, don’t rock the boat.”

We can no longer afford to say “no.” We have come to a crossroads where opportunity stretches out before us. But the pull of stagnation is strong and pushes us to take the easy path backwards.

Our people are experiencing the transition from an old economy to a new one. In the past our economy relied heavily on manufacturing to create wealth. Today we are moving to a new focus on innovative products and knowledge-based services. This change has brought pain and dislocation but it also heralds the possibilities of a prosperous future for all Mainers.

That Maine brand still represents quality, pride and integrity.

If we can preserve and enhance these unique assets, if we can develop and attract the new innovative businesses – from biotechnology to alternative energy, from new forest products to specialty foods – it will offer a truly sustainable prosperity.

But a bright future isn’t guaranteed or free. It must be earned with hard work and tough choices.

Now is the time for action.

No more studies.

No more delays.

No more waiting around.

If you want tax relief, if you want better schools, if you want to make sure that our children aren’t behind, and if you want a smarter, leaner State government – stand with me now.

If you want change, then your voice must be heard. Today.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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