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Last spring, members of the Legislature came together with my administration to overwhelmingly pass a strong, bipartisan state budget.

As part of that budget, we committed to a process to find at least $10.1 million in savings in the state budget.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee was tasked with identifying those savings through cuts, restructuring and improved efficiencies, and my administration committed to working with them.

In August, I submitted a list of changes that could save the state $11.3 million. That’s a good start, and as you’ve already pointed out, it’s ONLY a start. But if it’s adopted by the Legislature it would fulfill the requirements in the budget.

But I’m determined to go further.

The Appropriations Committee has made progress in its efforts, and its work will continue in October.

The committee deserves a lot of credit for the work it has done, and the way it has done it.

They created a way to submit ideas on the Internet, and thousands of suggestions have come in.

I am taking these suggestions seriously.

People need to know that we’re listening – their voices are being heard.

I keep a list of those ideas that people have sent in with my other budget materials on my desk, and my staff is evaluating them to determine the savings and also in terms of improving quality and dedication of services.

While there’s still a lot of work to do on many of the ideas, they give us a very good place to start.

One idea that was put forward by the people is to merge the state agencies that deal with Natural Resources.

For a state like Maine, with a long tradition of conservation, outdoor activities and a natural-resource-based dependent economy, such a merger would be a major change.

But I am committed to looking at it. If it’s a good idea, we must do it. I know it is going to make people feel uncomfortable, but we cannot leave any stone unturned.

Another idea that I’ve been talking about for a while also showed up on the public list. E-mailers suggested that we merge the Department of Transportation with the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Such a move faces some hurdles, but it also appears to make a lot of sense. The Turnpike, which is a separate independent agency, and MaineDOT do many of the same jobs and provide many of the same services. I believe that there are operational efficiencies to be gained with better cooperation.

And Maine isn’t the only state that’s looking at this.

Governor Patrick in Massachusetts this week proposed a similar idea. He would abolish the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and a number of other independent transportation-related bureaucracies and form one agency that would deal with transportation issues for his state.

This is what I’ve said for some time and that’s the approach that we’re going to be considering and putting forward before the Legislature.

Other ideas from the public include further examination of the state’s energy consumption.

What would the savings be if the thermostat in state buildings was turned down to 65 degrees during winter? I don’t know, but it’s worth finding out and we’re going to find out.

The ideas are far-ranging and touch every area of state government.

I am committed to making government at all levels more efficient.

We need to be able to do this so that we can provide the resources to invest in research and development so our businesses have the latest technology to secure better paying jobs and prosperity for all Mainers; so that we can provide tax relief for income and property tax payers; and so that we can have higher quality of health and education services.

We can do better. We can be smarter about how we’re doing it and work better together.

Last spring, we took major steps toward improving K-12 administration. We are eliminating unnecessary administration and putting resources into the classroom where they belong.

We’re also, this year, going to be adding four-year requirements for math and science in order to graduate from high school. We’re building more rigor and quality in the classrooms with higher education standards.

This year I’ll be proposing a unified corrections system that will protect property tax payers from double digit increases to pay for county jails.

The changes are big and they make some people feel uncomfortable.

But we can’t move forward by keeping one foot in the past and one in the future.

We must transform government for the new century. We must put both feet in the future, so that all Mainers – my son and your son and daughters – have opportunities here and don’t have to leave Maine and go elsewhere.

We owe it to them, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to Maine’s future.

Thank you and have a good day.

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