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Good day.

This weekend I will be traveling to Michigan to participate in the annual meeting of the National Governors Association.

The conference is an opportunity to represent Maine and talk about our successes. It’s also an opportunity to tell Maine’s story to some of the leading businesses in the country, and to share ideas and strategies with other governors – and learn from them what they are doing and their successes as well as what they have been working on and what has not been working well for them.

There will be sessions about promoting innovation in the economy, addressing climate change, modernizing education and improving health care.

In each of these areas, Maine has made significant progress. Just this year, the Legislature passed an investment package that will support research and development, higher education, job creation, better roads and bridges and will protect our environment.

We’ve confirmed our position as an environmental leader by banning harmful toxins in consumer goods and taking concrete steps to reduce the release of pollution that causes global warming.

And we did something other states have been unable to accomplish: We restructured K-12 administration to make it more efficient and more modern, all the while investing more than $800 million new dollars over four years into local public education, finally bringing about some real property tax relief for communities.

It’s a record we should be proud of.

I know that health care will be a hot topic at the National Governors Association meeting.

Last week, we celebrated a long list of health care bills that we enacted this year.

We have accomplished a lot in that area.

We did it by strengthening Dirigo Health Reform, our plan to provide universal access to health insurance to all Mainers. While a number of states have turned their attention to it, it was Maine that started the ball rolling with Dirigo.

And we remain on the leading edge of the health care debate. While other states are working against entrenched interests to get their plans off the ground, Maine is actually insuring about 20,000 people – small businesses, self-employed people - through Dirigo.

And while our plan is controversial here at home, it has received accolades around the country from other states and impartial observers like the John F. Kennedy School of Government as an innovation leader.

With legislation passed this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance policy until they turn 26 years old. Young adults are one of the hardest groups to reach with health insurance. They are just starting out and money tends to be tight, and too many of them don’t think about getting sick or getting hurt.

But it can happen, and this law will make sure some of them have the protection against those catastrophes.

Other legislation addresses consumer protection issues such as making more information about prescription drugs available, and their costs;

Expanding coverage for cancer screenings;

Calls for reviews to expand access to dental care and assistance to those with debilitating diseases such as eating disorders and mental health issues;

While state leaders will be meeting and trading recipes on how to make their homes economically stronger, healthier and smarter, there’s a debate going on in Washington that’s going to receive a fair amount of attention during our conference.

Congress and the president are debating the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP for short. The question is whether to expand the program to cover more kids.

In our state, this program has received overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s bipartisanly supported by our Congressional Delegation in Washington, and it covers about 15,000 kids in our state, all of them from families with income less than 200 percent of federal poverty.

In Maine we’re talking about middle income, middle class working families.

Despite its success, there are thousands of Maine kids who don’t have insurance.

Making sure every child in Maine can see a doctor shouldn’t be a question of ideology or political philosophy.

It’s a question about our responsibility as a community as the richest country on Earth. We have a moral obligation to take care of our children, and for me that’s where the debate ends.

You can be sure that this weekend, I’ll be telling Maine’s story, I’ll be taking notes on ideas and suggestions that other Governors have and what they’ve been able to experience – both successes and some more challenging circumstances. And I’ll be advocating for programs like S-CHIP and also about innovation and economic development, making sure that Maine is moving with the rest of the nation and the nation is moving in this global economy to make sure Maine children and Maine families aren’t left behind.

Thank you.

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