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This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, the State of Maine took a very important step in dealing with the economic crisis that our State and nation faces.

After careful consideration, opportunities for public input and weeks of hard work, the Legislature passed – and I signed -- the Supplemental Budget for the Fiscal Year 2009.

With my signature, the budget will be balanced for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30th.

I presented my proposed supplemental budget in mid-December to fill the gap of $140 million dollars that was caused by our national economic crisis, which led to lower than expected State revenues.

When I presented the proposal, I said that although cuts would have to be made to balance the budget, I took great care to safeguard core government functions, to protect the health and safety of our citizens, and also to make sure that we protect Maine’s economy.

And it was – and continues to be - a difficult balancing act.

Over the past month and a half, the Legislature has worked quickly and prudently to maintain our core responsibilities as a government, while dealing with the reality of our current economic situation.

The supplemental budget required all of us to make difficult choices, and it’s clear that business as usual isn’t good enough for the turmoil we face.

The true test of leadership comes during these hard times.

In dealing with the budget, the Legislature has demonstrated that Maine is able to put partisanship and parochial interests aside in order to do what’s right for the State.

The Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Sen. Bill Diamond, Rep. Emily Cain, Sen. Richard Rosen and Rep. Sawin Millett set the appropriate tone for the process that was open, fair and expedited.

They recognized the challenges we face in the current fiscal year require immediate action, and they worked together to get the job done.

I also want to give credit to the other Committee chairs and leads. I learned last week from Sen. Diamond, almost 99 percent of the committee recommendations were accepted by the Appropriations Committee.

It’s an excellent example of a successful, collaborative process.

President Mitchell, Speaker Pingree, Leader Kevin Raye and Leader Josh Tardy have set the example of good-faith negotiations and bipartisanship.

They were able to work beyond the hurdles and tough choices that are always part of closing a budget.

The supplemental budget is unfortunately just a warm up for the larger biennial budget gap that we are facing going forward.

In early January, by law, I issued a proposal for the biennial budget, which covers 2010 and 2011 and continues the work that was put forward in the supplemental budget:

n It changes the way government provides services and conducts its business; n It reforms and reduces administration; n And it makes sure that we are being as frugal as possible with the taxpayers’ money, by living under the spending caps in law for State government.

Cutting spending is never easy, but the national economic crisis has made it a necessity and the law requires a balanced budget.

And when all is said and done, the budget I proposed is about $200 million dollars less than its predecessor. It is the first time that has happened since 1974, that the biennial budget presented is less than its predecessor.

The silver lining in the process is that because we are working together to reform and find efficiencies in State government right now, we are preparing a more efficient State, with a more sensible structure, and a firm foundation for our children and grandchildren to grow and prosper and raise their families here.

Further, I have kept my commitment not to raise taxes in this proposal in order to fill the budget hole, or to break the frayed safety net for our most vulnerable citizens – our elderly, our children, and our disabled.

Times are tough now, but the economy will rebound.

And when it does, Maine will be better positioned to serve the people of this State and it will be more efficient and be able to take full advantage of the 21st century.

The passage and signing of the supplemental budget earlier this week was an important first step.

But we have much more work to do and it will require all of us to keep working together in order to get it done.

Thank you for listening, and have a great weekend.

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