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This is Governor John Baldacci.

As our State works its way through the worst recession since the Great Depression, it’s important that we all remain focused on our shared objectives: To protect and grow our economy, and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Next week, we will get a clearer picture of the damage today’s global recession has done to Maine’s economy.

Economists from the State’s revenue Forecasting Committee will meet and make predictions about the revenues the State can expect in the coming years.

The news will not be good.

As more individuals have lost their jobs and businesses are struggling to stay afloat, the effect will run throughout the entire State.

Government is not immune.

We know that State revenue collections are falling. At this point, we can’t say for sure by how much. But it is safe to say the reductions will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In January, I submitted a budget for the first time in at least 30 years that is smaller than its predecessor.

I proposed a plan that cut State spending by $200 million dollars.

Declining revenues now will force us to cut more.

I don’t want to sugarcoat the hard truth of our circumstances.

Maine will be forced to make more hard choices.

We must balance our budget. Our Constitution and law requires it.

But we will also make decisions that will invest and grow Maine’s economy into the future.

We are all going to have to roll up our sleeves and work together in order to get this job done.

And the pressure is going to be on for the Legislature to take decisive action and to take it quickly.

On July 1st, we must have a new budget passed into law. It’s the start of the State’s new fiscal year and in order for that to happen, we need the approval of at least two-thirds of the Legislature for it to take effect.

I can assure you that everyone will be able to find something in the budget that they don’t like or that they oppose.

But the people of this State are struggling and are depending upon all of us for the leadership to help make it through these tough times, and we must deliver.

So in early May, I will present changes for the current budget that will bring it into balance with those revenue predictions.

We have to be very careful about this work. Much is at stake.

I will not be proposing raising taxes. I think that would be a mistake during a time when our economy is already fragile.

Instead, we are going to need to make more cuts to State spending, we are going to need to further restructure and consolidate administration at all levels and all areas.

The budget picture is difficult, and is going to require choices that all of us would prefer to avoid.

But we are not in a hopeless situation, and we will overcome the obstacles in front of us.

The federal Recovery Act has given us a great opportunity to create or protect thousands of jobs.

My administration, working with the Legislature, is putting those resources to work creating jobs. Already, we’re seeing evidence: Road construction is already beginning. It’s estimated this spring, summer and fall 11,000 jobs in the transportation sector alone. Sewer and Water District projects have already been awarded to communities and they are going out to bid. Much needs to be done, but much has been done.

Mainers know that we cannot use our current recession as an excuse to avoid important investments in our people and in our economy.

As the Legislature considers the budget, it also is working on an investment strategy that will pay dividends today and in the future.

I have proposed a three-year, $306 million dollar investment package that will create jobs, give Maine workers the tools they need for success and support the work of innovative thinkers who will drive our economy in the future - transportation projects, road and bridge and rail, and research & development, and a new renewable energy future.

There’s a legitimate question about the amount of debt our State should undertake, particularly during a recession.

But during the hard times, government has the unique ability to make investments, and spark the private sector that will create the jobs that’s necessary for long-term growth.

Our private contractors, construction workers, engineers and architects need our support.

Our students and universities and community colleges need the resources to adapt to a changing nature of our world economy.

Maine is also presented today with a unique opportunity.

We stand at the gate of an energy revolution that can deliver less expensive power from cleaner, renewable domestic resources.

There are proposals for transmission projects that will make our State more energy secure and reliable, and more energy independent. And they have the potential this summer to put thousands of Mainers to work.

We have the opportunities with wind, water and wood, and the prospects for tremendous economic growth.

I recognize that there are concerns about specific proposals, but we cannot afford to delay. We must be smart, we must be efficient, but we must be aggressive, or risk letting this golden opportunity slip away.

The right choices today will protect our economy and lead us toward prosperity tomorrow.

Thank you.

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