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This is Governor John Baldacci.

The feeling of springtime is quickly turning to summertime in Maine. The days are getting warmer and brighter and the feelings of optimism and hope are inevitable - and welcome – especially this time of the year. We must also remember that our State and nation continue to face difficult economic times.

Some experts are saying that there are signs of recovery from the recession our country has been struggling with, although the effects of that recession are still being felt by people here in Maine and nationwide.

Nobody has been immune. Auto manufacturers and dealers, paper mills, retail stores and many others have experienced cutbacks, slowdowns and closures as a result of this recession. And while the country may be starting to bounce back, it has still been slow and American people are still feeling the harsh effects.

The downturn in the economy has also affected State government. When people spend less money, that has a direct impact on the amount of revenues your government collects. As a result, we have been forced to find ways to cut spending during a time when the citizens of Maine need government services the most.

But, as difficult as times have been, I have committed to not raising broad-based taxes to balance this budget.

Instead, I have said from the start that sacrifices must be shared across all agencies, all departments and all levels of government.

I have remained focused on protecting our most vulnerable citizens and making sure that their safety net has remained in tact.

But this means there are a lot of difficult choices that have to be made.

It also means we have an opportunity to prepare our economy and infrastructure to come out of this recession well-prepared for the days ahead.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the original biennial budget that I proposed was less than its predecessor by about $200 million dollars.

Then, earlier this month when the State’s revenue picture became clearer, I had to propose making additional cuts to that budget.

When all was said and done, we took a $6.3 billion biennial budget for the current fiscal years, and trimmed it to a $5.8 billion budget for the next two fiscal years. That represents over $500 million less spending in the next two years.

The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has been working diligently in response to my proposals. Earlier this week, they voted a unanimous, bipartisan budget out of the committee.

I would like to commend them for their work, doing so cooperatively to make difficult choices and put the people of Maine first.

Senate Chair of the Committee William Diamond, the Republican Senate Lead Sen. Richard Rosen, the House Democratic Chair Rep. Emily Cain, and the Republican Lead Rep. Sawin Millett.

I would also like to thank Legislative leadership in both the House and Senate who worked tirelessly along with the committee to help strike the right balance.

Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Raye, House Speaker Hannah Pingree and Republican Floor Leader Josh Tardy.

And this week, the budget will go before the full bodies of the House and Senate.

Democrats and Republicans have had real differences of opinion on the budget, but in the end it has come down to the responsibilities that you – the citizens - have placed on your elected officials. One of those responsibilities is to pass a balanced State budget. The constitution and law require it.

In order for this budget to pass, two-thirds of the Legislature must approve it. I encourage the members of the House and Senate to continue the precedent that has been set by members of the Appropriations Committee and Legislative Leadership, and work in a bipartisan fashion to do what is best for this State.

The cuts are real, and they are difficult. Many of us have not experienced such difficult times in our lives. But this budget strikes the right balance to help position Maine for economic recovery and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

It makes significant changes in the way government operates and delivers services and it continues the pressure to make sure that we are efficient with taxpayers’ dollars in the future.

This is also Memorial Day Weekend. We always remember and never forget. So as you start the summer tourist season, remember the sacrifices that have been made for all of us.

Have a great and safe weekend. Thank you.

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