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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

As we move closer to the end of the Legislative session, I remain hopeful that we can chart a bipartisan course through the most difficult issues of the day.

Maine – like the rest of the country – has been struggling to overcome the worst recession since the Great Depression.

One of our biggest challenges has been to balance the budget during a time when State revenues are declining.

In the last 12 months, revenues for the State have declined by more than $1 billion dollars.

Late last year, I presented a plan to bring the budget into balance and to close a projected $438 million dollar gap.

Since then, our economy and our financial situation have improved, making it possible to mitigate some of the most difficult cuts, particularly in the areas of human services and education.

I have sought a path that protects the State’s most vulnerable and core government services, while also safeguarding economic growth and promoting recovery.

The work has been difficult.

Fortunately, revenues have rebounded slightly as the economy has begun to improve, and we have taken responsible actions to bring spending in line.

With work on the budget moving toward a close, I believe we must continue to reduce State spending, continue important structural reforms and protect public health and safety.

While many other States have resorted to raising taxes or draconian cuts, we have sought better solutions.

I have pushed for more efficiency and a smaller, smarter government; right sizing government to existing revenues.

I have asked providers and government agencies to find better ways to deliver important services.

And I have refused to raise taxes.

I do not believe that Maine families and businesses can afford a greater burden, especially as the effects of the recession linger on.

At the same time, I recognize that government provides a critical safety net to many of our neighbors and friends.

They depend upon the State to keep them safe. And we cannot, no matter the difficulties, turn our back on them.

Nor can we ignore our responsibility to educate our children, support higher education and keep our communities safe and clean.

It hasn’t been easy, but I believe that we are close to a solution that finds the right balance.

It will require shared sacrifice, innovation and perseverance.

But I know we can do it.

Also, the work would have been much more difficult without the continued support of Maine’s Congressional delegation: Sen. Snowe, Sen. Collins, Rep. Michaud and Rep. Pingree.

So as we approach what I hope is a bipartisan agreement on the budget here in Maine, I am reminded about what a special place this is.

While other states – and the federal government – are often locked in partisan gridlock, Maine is able to find a way forward that brings people together.

Even on those areas where the parties disagree, this session we have managed to work together for the greater good of the State.

As my administration made adjustments to our budget plans, we listened to the concerns that we heard from the public, from Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature.

This week I meet with leaders of both parties. They told me that there might still be difference on the budget, but the cooperative approach had made it more likely that we can reach consensus.

We haven’t finished the task yet.

But the experience of the past three months shows me that we can get there from here if we keep talking and working in good faith for the State’s best interest.

So while we remain short of the finish line, every day we get closer.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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