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Good morning.

For much of the state, life is beginning to return to normal after a difficult week.

On Patriots’ Day weekend, Maine was hit with an intense rain and high wind storm – with gusts reaching more than 80 miles per hour.

Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power. Roads and bridges were destroyed. Homes and lives were lost.

But now, the weather has cleared, school vacation is over and the Legislature is back in session.

A number of big issues remain in the works.

The Legislature continues to work on the budget I proposed back in January. I am determined that we will have a two-year budget that reduces K-12 administration costs, reduces the burden on taxpayers and increases the quality of education. I am also determined that we will find savings and improve care through better management of human services.

My administration is also advancing a plan that will reduce the cost increases of health insurance in Maine for individuals and small businesses, improving their access to coverage and keeping us all on a track to be the healthiest state in the nation.

Just this week, I vetoed legislation that would have doubled the number of slot machines in the state without first seeking voter approval. Come November, voters will have the final say on the question.

Even with all of that, my administration and I have remained focused on the Patriots’ Day Storm. I’ve received daily updates on what’s going on and what needs to be going on.

I read every e-mail sent to my office about families and businesses that are struggling.

And I can promise everyone out there still trying to recover – You have not been forgotten.

At times, progress can feel painfully slow.

On Tuesday night, Camp Ellis came together to talk about what needs to happen to better protect their community.

There was a lot of frustration. People wanted answers and they wanted action.

Those are the same things that I want.

Late Wednesday afternoon, we learned that President Bush has declared six counties in Maine as major disasters, which will qualify them for federal aid in rebuilding roads and bridges, and other public property.

We are convinced that more areas will also qualify for federal help. But it doesn’t happen automatically.

Individuals and business owners need to report damage to their town offices. The reports don’t guarantee that everyone will receive assistance; but it does help the Federal Emergency Management Agency determine if individuals will qualify for federal aid.

Damage estimates from the storm continue to rise. As of Wednesday, they’re exceeding $42 million and we know that more than 2,000 homes have been damaged.

But as much as some areas have suffered, I remain amazed at the resilience of Maine people.

On Thursday, I visited New Meadow Lobster in Portland. The business is on Commercial Street and was hit hard by the storm.

The owner, Peter McAleney, told me that he suffered more than $300,000 of damage. That’s the bad news.

The good news – is less than two weeks later, New Meadows is ready for the season, which begins next week. He’s been busy working and trying to get things ready. He tells me that he will be open for business.

It’s a story that’s been repeated all over the state. People are getting back on their feet, they’re helping each other out and they’re getting ready for a busy summer when tourists from all over the world will make their way to Maine.

And I’m making sure that Maine government is doing all that it can do to help.

The Finance Authority of Maine has created two programs that will provide low-cost loans to businesses hit by the storm.

And the Maine Housing Authority has programs to help people make repairs to their homes or to replace it entirely if it’s been damaged beyond repair.

There’s a lot going on right, and a lot of big issues that will draw the TV cameras and the headlines over the next few weeks.

Many of them are important and deserve the attention.

But Maine should know that no matter what else is happening, my administration is committed to helping families and communities recover from this devastating storm.

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