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This weekend we celebrate the most holy day of the Christian faith, Easter.

It's a time of rebirth. Regardless of a person's faith, we can all take heart in this time of great celebration and renewal.

Easter is a holiday about lifting the spirits, individually and collectively. It is a time to share with a loved one and to celebrate the ties that bind us to our family and to our community.

This year we seem to need more uplifting than ever and it’s a recognition that the long cold winter here which is hopefully ending; and the uneasiness we have about our future – our economic future -- will be replaced by hope of better things to come.

For a number of months now, we have been dealing with great challenges and I have talked to many Mainers who have expressed their worries about making ends meet. They want nothing more than to provide security for themselves and their families and to see their communities healthy and strong.

But instead, they are gripped by anxiety of fear that the slowdown in the national economy that has impacted Maine jeopardizes their economic security.

Adding to the struggling national economy, the burden of the ever-rising prices of gasoline and home heating oil, the continuing war in Iraq and the protracted winter of cold temperatures and repeated snowfalls. It’s easy to see why such great anxiety has taken hold.

Everyone in Maine is impacted. All of us are sharing in this turmoil.

But Mainers are resilient. We’ve experienced tough times before, and we’ve come through it.

I have no doubt that we have brighter days ahead.

Like the long cold winter, the financial challenges we are experiencing won’t disappear overnight. And as with the ice storm we experienced a decade ago, it will take the collective work of all of us to get through this economic ice storm. And we are experiencing it together and we have to stick together to get through it.

That’s why I have asked all Mainers to do what they can do to look out for themselves and their communities and families. And that is why, under my proposal to close the state budget deficit, I have asked all state departments to share the sacrifice by reducing spending in their areas – not raising taxes and burdens on individuals, working families and small businesses.

Many of those people and businesses are already shouldering the burden of government that spends too much, and many are just holding on. We shouldn’t add to the struggles of hard-working families who have seen the spike in energy costs and the impacts from everything from home heating oil, to transiting to work, to increasing food prices.

Only through such structural changes in our budget will we stem the tide of rising budget shortfalls – now and into the future.

We need to rebalance government to better serve people with fewer resources.

So that’s why I was pleased late this week, the Appropriations Committee – after working long nights and weekends – reported out a budget that meets the guiding principles I set forth.

With this budget, we brought State spending in line with our revenues, we’ve restructured government to make it smaller and more efficient, and we’ve taken major steps toward improving our financial position in future years.

The budget approved by the Committee restores partially funding to important programs, including the university and community college and our Health and Human Service programs that serve our most vulnerable populations.

Make no mistake, the budget process going on in Augusta is difficult and painful, but we can no longer afford to put spending changes off for another Legislature or another Governor. Maine people need and deserve real relief right now.

This past week we have recognized St. Patrick’s Day and Franco-American Day. Two great celebrations, like Easter, are special because they celebrate who we are as a people. Maine draws its great strength from the cultures that have come before us in this State. And we have survived and thrived because we have stood together through those times, and have been able to come through it stronger than when we started.

Times of great challenges are a true test of our strength, and Mainers have always been there and have always come through.

As with Easter bringing new hope to Christians; as spring brings new growth and hope for all of us; we join together with our families and communities this weekend in reaffirming that tomorrow will be better, and the answers for the troubles that we face and that winter is almost over are in front of us.

And I wish all of you a happy and healthy Easter.

Thank you.

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