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This is Governor John Baldacci.

On Friday, I was joined by members of the Legislature as I announced details of my plans to help Maine prepare for this winter.

During the last two weeks, we’ve finally seen gasoline and oil prices beginning to ease a little.

But prices are still too high and the strain is apparent on family budgets, businesses and our national economy.

And as we look toward winter, there has been a growing anxiety about how best to cope with the high cost of staying warm.

A few people have been calling for a special session of the Legislature. They want something to be done and they want it done as soon as possible.

But after considering a number of options, and consulting with experts on the front lines at Maine State Housing Authority, the Low Income Heating Assistance Program and my energy director, I believe that we can take aggressive action to prepare for winter without calling Legislators back to Augusta this summer.

A special session is expensive and it’s time consuming. It costs about $40,000 every day and there’s no guarantee that we can quickly pass good policy.

So I have worked to develop a strategy with consultations from the legislature and experts that will put state dollars to work immediately.

Maine State Housing Authority has identified almost $7 million that had been set aside for future projects that we can move forward and put to work today to weatherize more Maine homes and increase the support we can provide for families living on the economic edge.

We will train new teams of weatherization experts and invest an additional $2 million to weatherize homes between now and January. This project alone has the potential to save more than 412,000 gallons of heating oil, and this is in addition to the $6.5 million dollars that already been put to work making homes more energy secure.

I will establish an emergency heating fund, and we know that it’s during January and February – the times that are most likely to need those resources to help families facing a heating emergency – we will have already established that fund.

And I will set aside $1 million – on top of the million already set aside – by the Finance Authority of Maine to help businesses get loans for energy conservation projects.

And we are going to support local organizations that have been working tirelessly to organize and help their neighbors. It’s the old motto of “neighbors helping neighbors,” something that Mainers do better than anybody else.

This is the course of action that builds upon a range of programs that are already helping Mainers become more energy secure.

Maine State Housing has low-interest loans available for low- and middle-income families right now looking to weatherize their homes. Up to $30,000 per loan is available right now at below market rates of 3.95 percent.

People who are looking for information about existing or new programs to help deal with high energy or food prices can call 2-1-1 for information.

So as we put this new system in place by Sept. 20, we are going to be able to make sure that callers get the information they’re looking for in one business day, and that loan and aid applications are processed in 30 days or less.

Now, while there’s a glimmer of hope right now on oil prices staying below their summer peak, we must prepare for the worst.

Our action plan will make a difference before the snow starts flying. And if we find ourselves in a situation where we must take additional steps before December when the Legislature reconvenes, I will not hesitate to take those steps.

Today, however, such a move would be a waste of energy - time and money, two things there aren’t enough of.

It’s not possible for government to answer every energy need this winter, but it is my goal to provide struggling families and businesses with a hand up and to make sure everyone else has the information, support and opportunity to help themselves.

Thank you and have a good weekend.

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