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This is Governor John Baldacci.

When we face difficult times – as a State, a community or even a family – it’s important that we are able to put aside the things that divide us and focus instead on the things that can bring us together.

The Maine Legislature is nearing the end of a process that began last summer when I started working on the next two-year State budget.

Since those days, a lot has changed.

Maine has seen the impact of a national recession coming home.

We’ve had our spirits lifted by the opportunities created by the President’s Recovery Act.

And we’ve had to deal with the harsh realities of declining revenues, job losses and economic uncertainty.

Through it all, I have remained focused on preparing Maine’s economy for the recovery that I know will come and protecting the people in our State who need help the most now.

From the beginning, I have talked about the new demands placed on our State by the global recession.

And we are all being called upon to do our part.

No department, no agency and no service provided will go untouched. There will be real cuts in government programs and hardships and sacrifices for people who depend on them.

Our situation demands that.

In the budget I submitted, it’s the first time in almost 30 years that a biennial budget has been less than its predecessor. The budget I introduced was $6.1 billion, two years previous had been $6.3 billion, a real cut of $200 million.

The plan I proposed asked much of many, but it did not burden any one single group.

The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has been working diligently in response to my proposals.

They have made some changes and some improvements.

And in a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship, they have worked together to approve a majority of the budget.

There also have been real differences expressed between Democrats and Republicans, and that’s to be expected.

When economic conditions drive us to reduce State spending by about $500 million, to reduce services, to make significant changes, you have got to expect that there is going to be differences of opinion.

At the end of the day, however, every member of the Legislature – Democrat, Republican or Independent – has an obligation and a responsibility to pass a State budget.

Our budget process requires two-thirds of the Legislature to approve our budget. It’s required by Constitution and by law. And time is running short.

There are thousands of people – businesses, doctors - who depend upon us to move quickly, to pass a budget and to pay our bills.

The longer we wait for action, the more uncertainty there will be.

Everyone who wants to look will be able to find a reason not to support the budget.

At the end of the process, I know that we are going to have a reasonable budget that will find the best possible balance during some very difficult times.

If we make the right choices, we’ll be in a better position to weather the current economic storm and begin down the path of recovery.

But the right choices aren’t always easy choices.

I am encouraging the Legislature to move quickly to pass a budget so that Maine can meet its obligations and be better positioned for economic recovery.

It won’t be easy. But it is necessary.

Thank you.

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