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This is Governor John Baldacci.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to join many of the country’s other governors in a rare meeting with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden in Philadelphia.

The experience was unique, and the meeting was unprecedented.

Never before have the nation’s governors been invited this early on to meet with an incoming administration. To put this in perspective, we were meeting with the new administration so early that many of the staff members had not even had business cards printed yet.

While the meeting had its share of cordialities and friendly exchanges, the majority of time was spent discussing how we can rebuild our country.

President-elect Obama stressed to all governors that reaching across party lines will be more important than ever. He told us that he is extending the same hand of friendship and the same commitment to partnership to Republicans and Democrats alike.

Governors, he said, wouldn’t be just asked to implement his plan or follow his lead. He is seeking our advice and expertise in creating an economic recovery plan for our nation.

President-elect Obama understands that in order to rebuild America for the long-term, every state must be engaged and involved in the process if it is going to work.

He is going to work with us on developing that package. It is going to rebuild our economy by addressing job creation, energy independence, health care and to recognize our ever-growing national debt.

The President-elect plans to sign an economic stimulus package to address those problems on the first day in office.

He is making it his top priority.

The stimulus package could pump as much as $500 billion dollars into the states’ economies over the next two years.

That is infrastructure investments in rails, roads and bridges; into health care (and) energy independence.

The President-elect has a goal to secure 2.5 million jobs for Americans through this package. Every state – including Maine – will benefit from such a plan, both directly and indirectly.

My fellow governors who attended the meeting with the President-elect and the Vice President-elect left Philadelphia with a sense of optimism.

It was a feeling that transcended party lines.

As governors, it is important to understand that there is a time for campaigning and there is a time for governing. Right now, our country needs our lawmakers to govern.

As we prepare for a new Presidential Administration to take over, here in Maine we are also welcoming in a new group of State Legislators.

On Wednesday, I swore-in members of the 124th Maine Legislature. As a group, at this critical time, we must all pledge to work together to do what is in the best interest for all of our citizens.

We – like the rest of the nation – are experiencing a difficult time financially. We have already had to cut spending in this fiscal year by nearly $80 million dollars and I will be introducing a supplemental budget in a couple of weeks.

Difficult choices will have to be made. Maine people will be affected. But, by working together and discussing our plans and displaying the bipartisan efforts that the President-elect is displaying on a national level, we will persevere as a state and as a nation.

I would like to take this time to congratulate all of the incoming members of the 124th Legislature. I look forward to working with all of you in the upcoming session.

I also want to congratulate State Rep. Janet Mills on being chosen to be Maine’s new Attorney General. I want to say I look forward to working with the Attorney General in her new capacity.

And finally, I would like to congratulate State Auditor Neria Douglass, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, State Treasurer David LaMoine for winning re-election to their offices. They have served the State and our people well, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of them.

While it is exciting to welcome in our new lawmakers and constitutional officers, we must realize that this is a difficult and trying time for our citizens and families and businesses.

So as this new year brings in new opportunities and a new outlook on the future, we also have to have a renewed sense of community and looking out for each other to make sure we get through these difficult days and months ahead. I am hopeful that you will share the optimism with me as I look forward to the future. And I am hopeful that we will be able to have those brighter days ahead.

Thank you and have a nice weekend.

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