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Good day.

In the early 1900s, it became clear to many of our country’s leading thinkers that the United States needed a highway system that could tie communities together.

Work began planning for the network of roads as early as 1921, but it took the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 to bring to life what’s known today as the Interstate Highway System.

As a young soldier, President Dwight David Eisenhower realized during a cross country trip that our national security and our economy were closely tied to our ability to move people and goods from place to place.

Initial estimates expect the Interstate System to cost about $25 billion to complete. By the time it was finished, it would cost more than $110 billion and adjusted for inflation, the price tag was closer to $425 billion.

President Eisenhower also realized that the job of building highways from coast to coast was simply too big for States to accomplish on their own.

Today, our country faces a long list of problems that are too big for individual states to tackle alone.

We must have an active and willing federal partner if we are to be successful.

As it stands today, the federal government is not meeting its responsibilities to the states.

Federal funding for roads and bridge repair is declining, leaving states short of revenue they need to keep the Eisenhower Interstate System running smoothly.

New Medicaid rules are threatening to strip states of billions of dollars worth of health care support.

And the President’s latest budget has been accurately described as a disaster for the states. It takes money from low-income heating assistance and state-level drug enforcement and further undermines every state’s financial ability in a time of economic trouble.

The national economy is struggling, and the effects are trickling down to Maine. We know the revenues of our state that we are collecting are declining.

Our administration is working with the Legislature to close a growing budget gap by making the hard decisions necessary to balance the budget.

But the problem is compounded by actions – and in some cases inaction – in Washington that adds to the burdens placed on Maine taxpayers.

This weekend, I will be traveling to Washington to participate in the National Governors Association Winter Meeting.

I will deliver a message to my fellow governors and to the President that Maine needs a willing partner in the federal government if we are going to meet the challenges of today.

Like most other states, Maine must balance its budget every year. We can not continue to carry an increasing burden passed on by the federal government content to let its decisions add to our economic turmoil.

Maine learned earlier this year that the federal government is planning to change the rules on Medicaid. The result will be a drastic reduction in funding for health care to older Mainers and disabled children. The state will lose tens of millions of dollars and communities will lose much more.

The rule changes, which go well beyond the intent of Congress, will ripple through our State’s economy, leaving families struggling to provide for their loved ones and people out of work.

The change comes at a time of already increasing pressure on the State budget, making it difficult – if not impossible – for Maine to continue to provide all the services that people currently receive.

Other states are facing the same crisis.

But our problems are not limited to health care.

As the costs of building and maintaining and repairing our State’s highway and bridges have gone up, federal support has not kept pace. Federal support has actually declined every year since 2002.

The federal government has played a major role in funding transportation in the United States, but as it reduces its participation, states aren’t able to fill in the gap. We need a recommitment to the nation’s infrastructure from Washington.

As the nation’s governors gather this weekend, we will also be discussing the advancement of new energy resources, improvements in education and long-term care for our older citizens.

While states rely on the federal government, we just can’t wait for action.

On energy, for example, Maine is leading by example. We are aggressively pursuing the development of wind and tidal power, and my administration has created a Wood-to-Energy Task Force that is going to explore every opportunity to turn Maine’s forest into an environmentally friendly, renewable energy resource.

And while the federal government has stalled on efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions and develop a sensible energy policy, Maine and other Northeastern states have forged ahead.

And while federal regulators left Mainer’s suffering under the high burdens of energy prices, Maine has sought out developments and built new, cooperative relationships with New Brunswick that we believe will lower electricity costs for Maine ratepayers in the future.

Working together, in a bipartisan way, I believe this country’s governors can deliver a potent message to Washington that now – during a serious economic downturn – is not the time to pull support away from transportation, health care, energy and education.

Now is the time to put the incredible power of the federal government to work solving problems, not creating new ones.

Thank you and have a nice weekend.

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