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Governor John E. Baldacci Radio Address The New Year

The year 2007 is nearing its end.

When I look back on the past year, I do so with mixed feelings.

In Maine, we have seen great accomplishments, and we have met great challenges.

We have laid the foundation for great opportunity, and we have made the difficult choices that will strengthen the State in the coming year.

We have invested in our roads and bridges, our community colleges and universities and in our environment.

We have continued our commitment to K-12 education, spending unprecedented state resources – about a billion dollars a year -- to make sure students receive a quality education.

And we have completed significant conservation projects that will ensure that Maine’s North Woods are preserved and remain open for traditional uses, including hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling.

We’ve celebrated together as our beloved Boston Red Sox won the World Series, and our New England Patriots stand on the threshold of legend.

We’ve seen the Legislature work together in a bipartisan way to protect Mainers from unscrupulous lenders, to invest in the innovations and technologies that will drive our State’s economy forward, and to make the most significant reform in K-12 education in 50 years.

These are all things that we should be proud of and should celebrate.

But we’ve also endured tragedy and loss.

We remain a nation at war, with young men and women pulled from their family’s loving embrace to fight in far-off places where the outcomes remain uncertain.

Our economy is suffering under the weight of bad decisions by national policymakers, a weakened housing market and record-high energy prices.

Too many families face cold nights, empty cupboards and debt they cannot manage.

Around the country, States have watched as revenues have dropped just as people are in the greatest need.

Maine has not been immune.

In November, we learned that Maine’s revenues would not its meet expectations and that we would have to address a $95 million downturn for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

Families and businesses all around Maine are struggling. They are being forced to make tough decisions, to set priorities and adjust to new realities.

State government must do the same thing.

I have ordered spending reductions of $38 million for the current fiscal year, which began in July.

This decision brings me no pleasure; many of the reductions will be unpopular. But it is my Constitutional duty to make sure the State budget is balanced.

We are doing what is necessary right now.

Every part of State government was called upon to make recommendations on how to reduce spending while maintaining their core missions.

The process was deliberative and exhaustive.

The cuts we are making will not be easy, but we are moving forward in a way that makes sure that we can protect our most vulnerable citizens while also upholding my obligation under the Constitution to balance the State budget.

In January, I will submit a supplemental budget to the Legislature that will follow many of the reductions I’ve already put into place by executive order.

The supplemental budget will also allow me to adjust some of the curtailments that would be necessary absent legislative action.

It’s my hope that the Legislature will recognize the need for quick action and that together we can pass a strong, bipartisan supplemental budget.

This time of year, we often see images of Father Time -- stooped with age, bearded and worry – handing off his duties to Baby New Year.

For the Old Man, his work is done; for the baby, it’s just beginning.

For most of us, the New Year is neither a beginning nor an end. It’s a continuation, a time to take stock in where we’ve been and where we want to go.

As Ellen Goodman has said: (QUOTE) We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but for potential (End QUOTE).

When I look around the rooms that make up Maine, I am inspired by the ingenuity of our people, their entrepreneurial spirit.

I know that our State’s potential far outweighs any of its challenges -- if we are prepared to make necessary changes.

I believe we are at a turning point where we can re-imagine what government looks like and how it functions.

The work has begun, and it’s my resolution that it will continue in 2008.

Thank you for listening and have a Happy New Year.

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