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Good morning and welcome to a weekend of big dreams and big celebrations.

For the 65 Division I college basketball teams that have played their way into the NCAA tournament, this weekend is the beginning of an odyssey that could lead them to the Georgia Dome and a shot at a national title.

When play began this week, everything was possible for the longshot team dreaming of a chance at a late season run for glory.

For the players, coaches and fans, the future – the entire future – can feel like it’s been boiled down to just six games.

Away from the court, the cheering fans and an all-out effort typical of March Madness, the future stretches out much further than April 2 and the title game, and the consequences for coming up short are much greater.

Right now in Maine, we’re facing our own version of March Madness. Politics and deal making threaten to derail our state’s chances at a dream year.

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

Unfortunately, talk in the Legislature has turned to questions of what CAN pass instead of what SHOULD pass.

I will continue to push the Legislature to produce real reform plans that will deliver quality education AND provide real tax relief.

If we are able to accomplish that, we could all consider this session of the Legislature a success. But the future demands that we do much more.

On Monday, I will share with you my plans for investing in the future of the state.

After two years of missed opportunities – that’s how long it’s been since Maine voters last had the chance to approve bonds – for the sake of our roads and bridges, and our children’s future, it’s time for the people to be allowed to set the state’s investment priorities, and to make known their hopes and dreams for the future.

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

Unanimously, they agreed that Maine has the ability to invest more into our infrastructure and into helping our economy grow.

And as a matter of fact, Maine is one of the few states, they pointed out, that repay bonds in just 10 years. Most states take 20 or 30 years, driving up costs.

So, my investment plan will focus on five areas critical to the state’s future: Education, business and job growth, quality places and transportation.

I will ask the Legislature to send to voters a bond package that looks with a sharp eye toward tomorrow and puts resources to work today building new jobs and protecting those qualities that make Maine special.

You understand the importance of making smart investments. You are discerning, smart and engaged. I trust that you will make the right decisions on how much bonding is appropriate and what our priorities should be.

But there are some who don’t trust you, and have kept the bonding decisions away from you and the ballot box.

It takes a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to send to you, the Maine voter, a question about whether or not the state should invest in its roads, its schools, in innovation and in jobs for the future.

That two-thirds requirement has allowed a minority of lawmakers – driven by ideology, and political gain – to block all efforts at reasonable investment.

There are legitimate concerns about what level of bonding is appropriate. There are costs to borrowing money. Just like a homeowner with a mortgage, we have to pay interest on the money we bond. That’s money we can’t use for other things.

But just like a homeowner, smart bonding turns borrowing into equity, and brings a return on the investment.

When we invest in business growth, we are paid back with new, and better paying jobs.

When we invest in innovation, we are paid back with new industries and cutting edge technology.

And when we invest in education, we are paid back with a population that’s better able to adapt to the challenges of a new, 21st century global economy.

The dollars we invest today will pay us back with a Maine that gives every one of our citizens the opportunity for success.

THAT’s the equity we intend to build.

As you will see, my plan is measured and affordable. It’s the investment we CAN’T afford not to make.

March Madness would take a whole new meaning if we allow bickering and ideological zeal to block meaningful investment in our future.

It’s my hope that the madness will be left on the hardwood courts and not find its way into the halls of the State House. Unlike the tournament, this is no game.

And by the way, for the millions of Irish – and those who wish they were Irish this weekend – have a very happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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