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Good morning.

This week, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature presented their visions of how to balance Maine’s budget. Much of what they proposed goes a long way toward what I hoped to achieve when I unveiled my plans in January.

They’ve come up with some good ideas.

But they’ve also come up with some things I find troubling. Nonetheless, I remain confident that we can find the right path forward for Maine.

In the budget I presented, I took a strategic approach toward Maine’s future.

I increased funding for higher education and put more investment in innovative industries that will help Maine’s economy grow and help create good-paying, sustainable, private-sector jobs.

If we want good jobs in the state of Maine, we have to make investments that will help businesses grow, and we have to make the investments in education that will create a highly trained work force.

I also proposed significant reforms to the administrative structure of K-12 education and in the administrative structure of the delivery of human services.

Our current structures don’t work any more. They cost too much, waste money on duplication and inefficiencies. We have to change.

My plan will downsize school administration, invest the savings on behalf of students and teachers, and give relief to taxpayers. While many of the details are still being worked on in the Legislature, I remain committed to those original goals.

We must change now for the sake of quality education, to reduce the property tax burden and to strengthen Maine’s economy.

Since January, the Education and Appropriations committee have worked hard to find a plan that will restructure school districts and achieve administrative savings.

They deserve a lot of credit for tackling a tough issue.

But there’s more work that needs to be done, even if we can see the finish line from where we are standing.

We must achieve the level of sustainable savings that I proposed. That’s $36.5 million in the state budget. And there must be predictable savings for the future and we must have guaranteed property tax relief for our citizens.

We have to commit to actual change, we just can’t talk about the possibility of working together in new ways and not do anything about it.

School aid is 32 percent of the state budget. Of all property taxes in Maine, 63 percent go to K-12 education.

We must achieve real, substantial cost-efficiencies now. Parents, businesses, taxpayers want to invest in quality classroom education, not in excess administration.

While restructuring administration, we must support local schools. Local people must have a clear voice in their schools.

Administrative change must not mandate school closings. There’s nothing in my plan that calls for any schools to close.

When I think about the idea of local control of education, we’re not talking about school boards and superintendents and where the superintendents put their desk…we’re talking about parental involvement. That’s the most important thing for a child’s education and their futures.

It’s not about being involved in those decisions indirectly, but directly because they affect our kids. So it’s not the bus routes and purchasing, it’s parents working with teachers and principals to teach kids – that’s local control.

My dad used to say, “You can teach a child how to brush their teeth in school, but if they don’t practice it at home it’s not going to matter much.”

And we also have to guarantee property tax relief. Maine people want excellence in education and they want us to spend their tax dollars wisely.

Over four years, the state has invested over $700 million in new funding in K-12 education. Now taxpayers need a break.

As the state achieves its 55 percent share of school aid and as administrative efficiencies occur, school districts and municipalities must show their voters how school funds are being spent.

Local voters must have the final say on school budgets and property tax relief.

Sustainable savings, change now, local support and local control of school spending and property tax relief — those are the principles I hold for school reform.

I’ll settle for nothing less.

Mainers are frugal and community minded. They have a passion for participation, and they understand that sometimes we must undertake difficult challenges for the sake of our children.

Support for change continues to grow. More and more, I hear from people that they understand that Maine can’t just tread water.

We’ve come a long way since January. As we finish work on the budget, I remain committed to those core principles of making sure that Maine moves forward, but moves smartly.

Thank you and good day.

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