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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Maine is on the edge of a great transformation. The old ways are no longer sufficient for a 21st Century, global economy. We must all work smarter and faster and better.

I’ve proposed a three-year, $397 million investment strategy that will lay the foundation for that transformation.

We will invest in our innovation economy, in clean air and water, in education, in roads and bridges, and in private-sector job growth.

We must do it. And we must do it now.

My two-year budget began the difficult work before us. We have accepted the challenge to reform a K-12 education system burdened with excessive administration. We are putting the focus back where it belongs – in the classroom and on academic excellence. Not on who buys the chalk.

We are attacking inefficiencies throughout state government. We’re eliminating state departments and agencies, and modernizing how Human Services does its job.

But what we’re doing in the budget is not enough by itself. We must also make wise investments.

That’s why I’m proposing $131 million in bonds for transportation. That’s $100 million for roads and bridges. It’s almost $17 million for passenger and freight rail. It’s money for airports, shipping and ferries.

This investment will make it easier for people to move across the state, and for Maine goods to move across the country and around the world.

It will also make our roads and bridges safer.

With the matching dollars it will attract, the bond I’m proposing for transportation will create almost 12,000 jobs.

I am also proposing $131 million in bonds for innovation, for job growth and business development.

With that investment, Maine will help its best and brightest put their ideas to work with private companies and create private-sector jobs with good benefits.

There’s some amazing examples of what can be done. Through a public-private partnership at the University of Maine, new ballistic panels have been developed that will make tents safer and protect our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this rapidly changing world, people can live and work any place they want.

More and more, they are choosing Maine. We have those special qualities that people thirst for. They come looking for our small towns and rejuvenated cities, for open spaces and the abundant natural resources we have worked hard to protect.

Our prosperity is tied to the environment, to clean air and water, and to the land that sustains us. We can not separate them and we shouldn’t try.

My plan includes $97 million in bonds for our quality places. We will invest in our river communities and in our working waterfronts. We will improve our parks and historic sites.

And we will make sure our water is clean and safe.

When we invest in our environment and in conservation through programs like Land for Maine’s Future, we are investing in the assets that set us apart.

For too many years, we have starved our universities and community colleges. We need to do more.

I am also proposing $33 million for the University of Maine, the community college system and Maine Maritime Academy so that our people can continue to receive a great education.

Our colleges are bursting at the seams. My plan will invest in the lab space and classrooms we need to meet the demands of a growing number of students and of an economy that seeks a highly skilled work force.

My plan is aggressive, but it is also affordable.

It takes careful measure of what we can do, and what we need to do.

Four years ago, we faced some incredible obstacles. Since then, we have closed a $1.2 billion structural gap, eliminated $250 million in short-term borrowing and rebuilt our reserve accounts from zero to $150 million.

That hard work has put us on firmer foundation, and has given us the opportunity to invest today.

Earlier this month, I met with representatives of three major credit rating agencies from New York. These are the people who judge the strength of Maine’s economy.

Unanimously, they agreed that Maine has the ability to use bonds to invest more to help its economy grow.

For the past two years, politics has stood in the way of progress. Moving Maine shouldn’t be about Democratic ideas or Republican ideas. Partisanship has no place in this debate.

I expect the Legislature to consider a comprehensive bond package, one that sets us on a stable and predictable investment strategy for the next three years.

Anything less is to betray the people we were elected to serve.

We have an opportunity – today – to do great things and to lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.

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