AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci saluted Maine’s accomplishments in 2007 and looked forward to 2008 in this weekend’s year-ending radio address. He also wished Mainers a happy new year.

The governor praised Mainers for approving bond issues to improve roads and bridges, state university and college systems and promote conservation during the past year. He also pointed to legislative efforts to protect Mainers from unscrupulous mortgage lenders.

On the darker side, Baldacci said the nation remains at war and too many families face hard times while state government faces a $95 million state budget shortfall. On Dec. 18, Baldacci ordered $38 million in state spending cutbacks, which he said would be reflected in the supplemental state budget he will submit to the Legislature after it returns in January.

“We are doing what is necessary right now,” Baldacci said.

But the governor said he remains “inspired by the ingenuity of our people, their entrepreneurial spirit.”

“I know that our state’s potential far outweighs any of its challenges – if we are prepared to make necessary changes. I believe we are at a turning point where we can re-imagine what government looks like and how it functions.

“The work has begun, and it’s my resolution that it will continue in 2008,” Baldacci said in his pre-taped address.

In the Republican response, Sen. Christine Savage of Union said she’s seen changes in state government during her several terms in the Legislature, and “I am afraid to say that as the years have passed, we have moved in the wrong direction.”

“Our children leave to make a living rather than stay here in Maine. Regulation has increased to where it strangles our businesses, and in Augusta we spend money we don’t have on projects we don’t need,” said Savage.

State spending cuts already ordered by the governor are temporary, Savage said. “The time is now to make the structural changes necessary to state government so that we may start solving this annual problem rather than patching it year after year as the governor seeks to do,” she said.

Savage called on elected officials to reform state government in 2008. She said government must avoid shifting taxes from the state to property taxes, and should implement policies that encourage capital investment in the state.

AP-ES-12-29-07 1838EST

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