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This is Governor John Baldacci.

For nearly eight years, Washington has allowed speculators and manipulators to go unchecked in a free-for-all disguised as a free market.

Vast sums of money have been plundered from folks, many of whom were just trying to improve their lives with the purchase of a home, raising their families and making sure their children are safely off to college.

In recent weeks, we have become all too aware of the harsh realities of a boom built upon bad credit and shady business deals.

Our nation stands on the verge of the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.

And there is a desperate – and immediate – call for action.

While we must call upon Washington to take action to right our country’s financial ship, we cannot be lured into adopting a policy that is not well-thought out, disciplined and responsible.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the very people demanding immediate -- and near total – financial authority are the same ones who allowed our country to slip into the mess in the first place.

In the last two weeks, our financial markets have see-sawed between bad and worse. Oil prices jumped $16 dollars a barrel in just one day – a record. And families have watched as college savings accounts and 401(k) plans seemed to disappear.

President Bush and his Treasury Secretary have proposed a massive $700 billion dollar bailout of the country’s financial markets. Before all is said and done, the cost to the taxpayers could easily approach $1 trillion dollars or more.

Unfortunately, the plan that was introduced included provisions that would have handed a blank check over to Secretary of the Treasury. He would be unaccountable to anyone and his decisions would be beyond review.

It was a lack of proper oversight that created this crisis. Creating a new layer of unaccountability won’t solve it.

In rescue of the country’s financial markets, there must be some very straight forward principals.

First, it should be bipartisan.

It should put taxpayers ahead of CEOs.

It should include transparency and accountability.

And it should not forget about Main Street in favor of Wall Street.

When the financial titans go hat in hand in to the government looking for salvation, we cannot forget all those families living on the edge of bankruptcy and foreclosure, and all those small businesses that are seeing the American dream fade away.

If we are to save America’s economy, we cannot forget about its very life blood -- the worker, the small business owner, the entrepreneur and the family home.

While some of the effects of our current crisis are already painfully evident, more damage will likely emerge.

We must be mindful that retirement accounts and pensions could be put at risk because they invested in institutions like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Lehman Brothers.

And as we begin to work our way out of the crisis, we will have to pay a price for the failures on Wall Street.

And our local and regional banks, many of them rejected the lure of quick dollars and shady practices, could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage as the U.S. government bails out larger competitors.

There’s no question government must act.

But it must take the right action.

Our economy has already been rocked by record high oil prices, a failing housing market and instability.

Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

In Maine, we have aggressively sought to reform government at all levels to make it smaller, more efficient and more affordable.

We’ve reduced the number of state workers. We have forced efficiencies in administration at all levels, including human services, education administration and county government.

We must do more. We cannot count on new revenues – frankly, we are going to have less revenues.

And we are not going to raise taxes, we are going to look to cut taxes. So we must instead focus on austerity.

I have directed every agency in state government to adopt a plan to cut spending by at least 10 percent.

It’s an exercise that will ensure that we are prepared to weather the coming financial storm.

We don’t know yet how deep the cut will need to be, but we know reductions will be necessary.

I can’t say with certainty what the economic picture will look like down the road. So far, Maine’s unemployment rate and revenue picture have been better than the national average.

But we can’t count on that good news to continue.

For the past five and a half years, we have worked to improve Maine’s financial footing. We have built back our financial reserves from zero; we have been able to make sure that we have increased funding for education to the highest levels that it has been funded in, in the State’s history.

But, there’s much hard work left to do so that we are better prepared for the future because we have the best natural resources, highest quality of life, and recognize those connections around the world that can be made from Maine so that our young people don’t have to leave and find employment elsewhere.

That’s my goal. I know that’s your goal. Let’s work at this together.

Have a good day.

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