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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Despite a global recession and long list of highly charged issues, the 124th Legislature finished last week with an impressive list of accomplishments.

Instead of falling at the feet of the challenges before them, the 124th Legislature rose up and tackled them head-on. They put aside divisiveness, partisanship and ideology and came together to be a part of one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent memory.

The year started with the daunting task of passing a State budget with a reduction in spending of $500 million dollars. It’s the first time in at least 30 years that a State budget has been less than its predecessor.

Leaders of both parties and members of the Appropriations Committee showed great discipline by making the tough choices to lead Maine forward.

They also demonstrated that Maine was able to restrain spending and to make real reductions, even as the demand for services continues to grow.

Many other states have been raising taxes to deal with their own budgetary problems, Maine bucked the trend and made a significant reduction to income tax rates.

Let me repeat that – in these tough financial times, and around the world, the State of Maine LOWERED income taxes.

The 124th Legislature passed a tax reform package that will help to grow our economy and provide more stability for Maine citizens.

The income tax rate is being lowered from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent for incomes up to $250,000. For those folks fortunate to earn more than $250,000 the rate was cut from 8.5 percent to 6.85 percent.

In return, the sales tax is being broadened and made more exportable, so people visiting the State will pay their share to support things that make Maine special.

We also added an Earned Income Tax Credit to make it refundable for lower and middle income families earning $33,000 or less, which translates into more money into your pockets to cover the expenses of everyday life.

It’s always difficult to change the tax code, even when the changes make the system more fair and actually reduce the burden on Maine families.

There are those groups that become invested in the status quo or who fear change.

With the changes we’ve made, Maine can become more attractive for businesses and people who want to be able to keep more of their own money. Those are good things. Rewarding work. Rewarding investment.

And while we have reduced spending and passed tax reform, members of the 124th Legislature also realized the importance of continuing to invest in our State.

A responsible investment plan was passed on the final day of the session that will fund important improvements to our roads and bridges, promote innovation and critical support for higher education.

The $150 million dollar investment package will now be sent out to the voters, who will have a chance to vote on the funds to create jobs and to help Maine prepare for economic recovery.

The Legislature approved funding to develop offshore wind energy demonstration sites, a major component of Maine’s energy strategy.

Our State has enormous potential for renewable forms of energy. And the Legislature passed historic energy legislation that will contribute to our energy future.

The law sets aggressive goals to end our dependency on foreign oil and brings together Maine’s energy rebate, efficiency and conservation programs under one roof.

And it sets up a reasonable process for managing opportunities to take advantage of our location to develop new renewable energy resources.

We cannot miss out on our opportunity to take advantage of our natural resources. Establishing the infrastructure now will create a more stable energy future for our children.

And thanks to health care legislation passed this session, our children will have a better chance of growing up healthy.

Access to quality, cost and prevention were all addressed in bills that were passed by the Legislature. Taken together, they are helping to advance the broad goals of the original Dirigo Health Reform to make Maine the healthiest State in the nation.

The 124th Legislature has been through a lot in six months. But the members have proven that even in the most of difficult times, working together can benefit the people of Maine.

I want to congratulate them for their work, their leadership, and stepping up to the plate to do the right thing for Maine’s future.

And thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

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