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This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, there was plenty of turmoil in Augusta.

A number of folks were brought to the State House to oppose the changes to the budget I submitted last week.

When I made my recommendations on how to bring Maine’s budget into balance without raising taxes, I knew that the choices were the best of a bunch of bad options.

The rally on Wednesday was effective. It put real faces on decisions that are often talked about in terms of just dollars and cents.

But the reality of the situation is that all of Maine is struggling right now under the weight of a declining national economy, some say is nearing a recession.

Working men and women, some of them punching the clock at two jobs or more apiece, aren’t able to make due. They’re falling behind on their bills and they’re making tough personal choices about what to do without.

Small businesses are being crippled by rising costs that they can’t pass along to their customers, who are also suffering.

Consumer confidence is down. Oil and food prices are up.

We just can’t balance the state budget on working men and women. We must bring the structure of state government into check with the resources we have available.

I just want to put into perspective the added weight that Maine families are carrying right now.

This isn’t going to come as any surprise to you. You’ve been experiencing the pinch all along.

The cost to put gas in the car now accounts for 4 percent of the household budget this year, where it was 2 percent last year.

Since last year alone, the cost to drive to and from work has increased more than $600 dollars for an average Maine family.

The cost to fill the oil tank for winter has gone up more than $800, and still climbing.

And food prices are going through the roof. The cost of eggs and milk is going up. Fruits and vegetables are up 20 percent.

The grocery bill for a family of four in 2008 will be $700 more than it was in 2007.

Wages are growing, but they aren’t able to keep up.

And the very people hit hardest by these higher costs would also carry the greatest burden if we were to raise the taxes.

We can’t do it. We can’t add to the weight and burden that is already holding them down.

This week, I meet with an inspiring group of people involved in the Peace Corps.

Many of these men and women put their lives on hold so they could travel to other countries to help people in need.

They have upended their own lives and transplanted themselves in far-off places for the common good. They’ve served in such places as the Ukraine and Zimbabwe, Turkey and Ghana and many other places.

This week they traveled to the Blaine House so we could recognize the important and selfless work done by many of these volunteers that make up the Peace Corps.

It came as no surprise to me that Maine has one of the highest rates of per capita Peace Corps volunteers in the country.

Mainers have been answering the call for more than 47 years, helping others with agriculture, health and education.

And volunteers represent the spirit of Maine that I know so well.

Our people are willing to give of themselves to help others. They answer the call when someone else might let the phone ring.

They do their part to help their neighbors and to help strangers – people they might never meet.

But right now, I know the national economic condition is hitting all of Maine and all Mainers. And I know that state government’s ability to pay has fallen short of its obligations.

We must bring things back into balance. We must restructure government at all levels and all areas to be more efficient, and we must make cuts.

What we cannot do is to hurt and burden the hard-working men and women of this State who have stepped up, done the right thing by their families and communities and have helped build this State into a place I am proud to call home.

I understand the cuts that I have proposed touch real people. I know that. And for anyone who doubts the important work of government, this week’s rally should leave no doubt.

I welcome good ideas on how we can better make the reductions that are necessary to resize Maine government.

But I also know that higher taxes also touch real lives and real people. Mainers are patient, caring and giving. But even they have their limits.

We live in challenging times. But if we are disciplined in our decisions today, we will reach brighter days sooner rather than later.

Thank you for listening.

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