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Earlier this week I delivered my State of the State address.

My message was simple.

We have experienced tough times in the past, and have many challenges facing us now.

State revenues are not immune from the national economy teetering on recession. We are forced to make hard decisions and set priorities.

But Mainers are resilient.

We recognize when the way we have operated in the past isn’t getting the job done, we need to change.

And we have some choices to make. These choices will help to define who we are as a State, and what we hope to become.

We must strengthen government at all levels to better serve people in the demands of this new age, and we must also prioritize our spending so we can support those things we value most.

We’ve been working at this for some time already. The steps that we have taken by eliminating short-term borrowing and building up our reserves have placed us in a stronger position to deal with this fickle national economy.

And we have done it all without raising the sales or income taxes.

Think of it – a billion more dollars into local education, built up our reserves by $158 million, making sure there is no more short-term borrowing, and being able to do all of that without raising the sales or income tax. I think that’s an accomplishment the state should be very proud of.

But still, we must do more. First, three things I can promise that we will not do:

We will not pull the safety net from underneath the people who are the most vulnerable.

We will not take from our financial reserves.

And we will not increase taxes to balance the budget.

We will attack redundant administration so that we can free up resources for our priorities.

Since taking office in 2003, we have reduced the rolls of State government by more than 600 jobs. We have centralized back-office and administrative functions in all State departments. And in the first two years alone, we have been able to save over $11.5 million dollars.

Last year we recognized that our current education system was not sustainable.

We had 40,000 fewer students since the early ‘80s, but we have 400 more administrators, not counting superintendants. It’s not sustainable and we can do a better job to provide education to our children.

In August, we began a conversation with the County Commissioners and Sheriffs about the financial hardships created by our current, fragmented system, a system that is bad for taxpayers and bad for mentally ill and drug-addicted prisoners who do not get the care they need to break the cycle of crime.

I am submitting legislation to unify the state prison system with 15 county jail administrations.

And also, on another front, for three decades, the world has experienced amazing advances in science and technology.

But Maine’s natural resource agencies haven’t been allowed to keep up. The structure hasn’t kept pace with the changing times.

And in my budget, I propose a process that will result in no more than two natural resources agencies, where today we have four: the departments of Agriculture, Conservation, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and Marine Resources.

We will seek efficiencies and combine programs that shouldn’t be separated by bureaucracies.

In the area - the Health and Human Services Department - we must also seek change.

Through a contract with a private company called Unisys Corporation - nationally respected - the Medicaid computer system will be fixed.

I have also proposed a reorganization of the upper and middle management at the department that will empower frontline workers, reducing from 10 to 6 the number of central offices in the agency and consolidate management at the regional level.

In my budget, we will bring together three of the largest purchasers of health care in the State so that we’ll be able to purchase health care to save taxpayer money and provide better care to consumers.

The Maine State Employees Association, the University of Maine System and the Maine Education Association will join forces and put their enormous buying power to work to lower prescription drug costs.

So, it will save money for thousands of workers who need medicine, it will save taxpayers dollars who contribute to the system, and it will increase the amount of money that could be available for retired teachers’ health care.

These are just some of the proposals that I have put forward to the Legislature and to you, the people of Maine, to enable us to reform government so it works better, so that we can make critical investments in our future.

We are streamlining government and cutting administration.

And we are controlling spending.

We are investing in education and innovation so our children and families can succeed here in Maine and not have to go elsewhere.

And we are helping to increase the amount of incomes and good jobs and benefits.

That’s the roadmap that gets Maine where it needs to be.

Next week I’ll talk about some additional steps that we need to address in order to improve the lives of the people of Maine and to grow Maine’s economy.

Thank you and good day.

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