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This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, the Legislature overcame a daunting but necessary task and overwhelmingly passed a responsible State budget.

We can be proud of our State and its people. Our Legislature and all of those who worked so hard this session to grapple with the most serious economic crisis in 70 years. We did what had to be done.

We passed the balanced budget as required by the constitution and law, we avoided increasing broad-based income or sales taxes, and we protected those most in need.

We faced significant challenges, as have all other States, but we have been able to maintain that leadership position because of the tone, civility, and the willingness of both parties to avoid gridlock and stalemate and work together and come up with a fair and responsible budget.

The budget, which was passed with 33 of 35 votes in the State Senate and 119 votes out of 151 in the House, it calls upon all Mainers to make sacrifices.

But it also protects our most vulnerable citizens, it makes structural changes in State government and positions our State for economic recovery.

The budget walks the fine, harsh line of necessity. It calls upon all to give and it calls upon all to do their part.

The size of the vote margin might suggest the budget was easy.

It was not.

The budget reduced spending from the previous biennial budget by $500 million dollars.

State workers are asked to sacrifice pay and benefits.

It asks counties and towns to stretch resources more, and make due with a smaller State subsidy.

It reduces MaineCare, and other important services that thousands of people rely upon.

And it says government won’t be able to provide the same level of services that many people have come to expect. We have to shut down non-emergency services for 10 days a year.

There are difficult choices in this budget.

But this budget also meets Maine’s obligations and invests in our future.

Government will continue to function and to provide important services.

We will meet our obligations to Maine hospitals which employ thousands of workers from Fort Kent to Kittery.

We will keep police on our highways, our wardens in the woods and on the water.

And make sure that the people who need our help the most will have a place to turn.

I understand the difficulty of the budget and the debate that it brought on. I know that every one of us could find something in the budget that we dislike.

But I think this budget represents the values and priorities of our State and demonstrates why our home is different from so many other places.

People of all political stripes came together and built a consensus.

They put aside differences. They compromised. They put the people of Maine and the greater good above their own interests and desires.

That leadership, that drive for consensus and a common-sense solution demonstrates the Maine values of hard work and practicality.

It is not the problems we face that set us apart. It is the way we choose to deal with them.

There’s an old saying that success has many fathers and mothers, and failure is an orphan.

The accomplishments of this budget would not have been possible without the leadership of many people.

In the Senate, President Libby Mitchell, Sen. Kevin Raye, Sen. Phil Bartlett, Sen. John Courtney and Sen. Lisa Marache.

In the House, Speaker Hannah Pingree, Rep. Josh Tardy, John Piotti, Rep. Phil Curtis and Seth Berry.

All deserve enormous credit for trusting one another and committing to work in a bipartisan fashion.

As Sen. Courtney said, there were certainly some grumpy moments, but Legislative leaders never stopped talking and never stopped working.

It was the hard work and professionalism of the entire Appropriations Committee and staff – but especially the chairs and leads Sen. Bill Diamond, Sen. Richard Rosen, Rep. Emily Cain and Rep. Sawin Millett. That work built upon the budget I presented in January.

Now, there is much work to do, and we must keep a cautious eye on the State and national economy.

We cannot predict with certainty what will happen in the weeks and months and years ahead.

But if we can continue to approach the challenges the same way that we have approached this challenge, no matter how big the challenge, how significant the gap.

Working in this fashion has created the tone and the civility and the respect for each other so that we will be able to do it for a better Maine today and a better future tomorrow.

Thank you and have a great day.

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