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Good morning.

During this past week, Maine has been treated to a spectacle that shows up about every two years.

Advocates – many of them really good people – holding rallies in Bangor, Augusta and Portland warning of terrible doom and gloom.

This year, we had horse trailers and dump trucks circling the State House.

We had dual, made-for-television moments in different media markets protesting spending reforms in the state’s delivery of human services.

There are letters, phone calls, post cards and placards, all foretelling of desperate times if this idea or that becomes law.

It’s a little showy at times and it sure can get some people worked up, but in the end it’s all part of the process for developing a two-year state budget.

The decisions lawmakers are responsible for in Augusta resonate throughout the State.

And for all the hyperbole, the State budget really does have far-reaching impacts on the everyday lives of Mainers.

That’s why I take responsibility to propose a forward-looking and responsible budget so seriously.

Back in January, I submitted a budget to the Legislature that struck the appropriate balance between supporting the programs that directly and positively touch people and reduce the high costs of administration in both state and local government.

My budget included a major educational reform of consolidating administration in K-12 education and by guaranteeing property tax relief for citizens who have been over property taxed for years.

It required a dollar increase in the cigarette tax to pay for a requirement that the citizens of Maine voted for to have the state pay 55% of local education. From 50 – 55% cost the state $170 million.

By proposing a dollar increase in the cigarette tax, that equaled $137 million over the two-year period. I asked the state Department of Finance to cut an additional $33 million out of state government so we would be able to put $170 million in K-12 education in this two-year budget.

I know cigarettes take an enormous toll on the health and welfare of the State; I know that citizens don’t appreciate taxes on cigarettes; but smoking costs the state more than $500 million a year in unnecessary medical expenses. It literally kills the State’s most valuable asset – our people. We know that higher cigarette taxes reduce the number of people who smoke, especially among young people.

Protecting the health of our kids should be our highest priority, and we know raising the cigarette tax does just that.

Unfortunately, the Legislature reacted coolly to a few of the ideas in my budget. Now they are tying themselves into knots.

I don’t understand how, given a choice between protecting the health of Mainers and protecting the profits of Big Tobacco, somebody could side with a known killer.

My budget protects the health and welfare of our State’s residents by making sure nobody loses access to doctors, medicine or other vital services through MaineCare.

But our current spending can’t continue unchecked.

That’s why I proposed serious reforms of the State’s MaineCare program. On every health care choice I’ve ever made, I’ve been guided by three principles: Will it improve health, Make the system fairer and reduce the amount of money we spend on administration.

We’re not talking about throwing people into the streets. We’re only slowing how fast we allow spending to grow. The changes aren’t easy, but they are fair and they protect our people not just during the next two years but for years to come.

Maine has a tradition of passing bipartisan budgets. These require two-thirds support in the Legislature. That structure means neither party can pass a budget alone this time of the year, and that just a few people – a minority of lawmakers – can stop progress.

But it also means that everybody has a moral obligation to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.

Building a good two-year budget is difficult, but it’s not out of reach. I’ve already given the Legislature a good blueprint to follow.

And I’m asking you to call the Legislature to let them know that they should support the blueprint that the Governor laid out for them.

That number is 1-800-423-2900 in the House; 1-800-423-6900 in the Senate.

Let them know that they need to support the blueprint that I put forward that reforms education, guarantees property tax relief and invests in our economy. That’s what protects our future. That’s what protects our children.

And on a different note, I think it’s important to also recognize mothers and wishing all the mothers in Maine a Happy Mother’s Day. We couldn’t do what we do without them and thank you.

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