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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, we heard from the President a renewed commitment to put Americans back to work.

In February, President Obama, working with Maine’s Congressional Delegation, passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The law made significant investments in infrastructure, health care and education.

It created thousands of jobs in Maine and hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally.

Without question, the law helped our country avoid depression.

Even so, it’s clear that more needs to be done.

In Maine, the unemployment rate remains near 8 percent, while nationally the number is about 10 percent.

That’s still too high.

As I’ve said on many occasions, the best social program is a good job, and the best social service department is the family.

That’s why I was pleased this week when the President outlined his plans to spark job creation.

The plan focuses on several key areas, including:

• Small business growth;

• Investment in roads and bridges;

• Improved communications networks;

• Energy efficiency;

• Direct assistance to workers;

• And extended assistance to state and local governments to avoid layoffs and service reductions when people need help the most.

The plan is bold, but also targeted.

It addresses specific areas that we know will help our economy, put people to work and keep families safe during this unprecedented recession.

Small businesses are the backbone of Maine’s economy, and we’ve known long that they are the foundation for job creation.

The President’s plan will help to ensure that innovative businesses and people have access to the tools they need to be successful.

His plan includes tax incentives for hiring.

Like Maine’s Pine Tree Zone economic development program, the president wants to reward companies that put people to work with good-paying jobs and benefits.

His plan also calls for new investment in roads and bridges, airports and water systems.

Already in Maine, the Recovery Act has helped to create 3,400 jobs in these areas, while improving our roads, bridges and making our water cleaner and safer.

I know some critics have knocked the Recovery Act. They say it didn’t do enough and didn’t do it fast enough.

But if you ask the men and women who went to work beginning this summer, they will tell you it was a success.

Time and again, Maine has been recognized as a leader in implementing the Recovery Act.

And on Dec. 3, Congress’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranked Maine first in the nation for the speed and efficiency of its use of Recovery Act dollars.

In addition to the jobs created, untold thousands were saved because of increased federal support.

It was a priority of my administration to put people to work as quickly as possible.

The president also talked Tuesday about the need to keep in place important safety net provisions that are directly related to helping families hurt by the recession.

While it’s critical that the economy begin to create jobs more quickly, we also have to recognize that recovery will take time.

During the transition, the federal government needs to continue its support for the unemployed and for families struggling to keep health insurance.

These programs directly help people who have fallen on hard times. We shouldn’t leave them behind.

Finally, the president talked about extending assistance to State and local governments.

In Maine, I am working right now on budget revisions that will close an anticipated gap of about $400 million dollars in the State’s two-year budget.

I am making the difficult decisions necessary to keep our budget balanced, as required by State law and the Constitution.

But I am also asking that Washington recognize the plight of the States.

This week, I sent a letter to the White House and Maine’s Congressional Delegation asking that the increased support for Medicaid included in the Recovery Act be extended for at least six months.

With increased demands and diminishing State resources, people are at risk of losing their health care coverage without greater federal support.

I have talked with the Vice President and with the President’s economic team. I’ve told them state assistance should be part of any jobs plan.

We know that at least 34 states are facing significant mid-year budget cuts because the economy is still struggling.

If State and local economies are allowed to collapse, there can be no national recovery.

So as I finalize my budget revisions, my goal will be to minimize layoffs and to protect important areas such as public health, public safety, education and job creation.

While we need a strong partnership with the federal government, Maine will do what’s necessary to maintain a balanced budget and to spur economic recovery.

I will not support a tax increase during this recession that would only add to the burden on families and businesses.

And we will be holding our own jobs forum in January.

We will bring the best thinkers in the public and private sectors together to identify those steps we can take locally to promote job growth.

We’ll build on the ideas from the Presidents Jobs Forum earlier this month.

And we’ll highlight the resources that are already available to help businesses grow.

We need to work cooperatively with Washington to help private businesses be successful.

Thank you and have a good weekend.

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