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Baldacci State of the State 2008 page 3

But success also depends on innovation.

Maine has led the country on health care reform, an innovation that matters to families and businesses alike.
Maine has led the country on health care reform, an innovation that matters to families and businesses alike.

When the federal government passed a poorly designed Medicare drug benefit that actually hurt some senior citizens in our State, Maine stepped forward to ease the transition.

When the federal government failed to deliver on affordable health care, Maine stepped forward.

We will continue to step forward.

In my budget, we will bring together three of the largest purchasers of health care in the State for a new initiative to save taxpayer money and provide better care to consumers.

The Maine State Employees Health Commission, the University of Maine System and the Maine Education Association will join forces and put their enormous buying power to work to lower prescription drug costs.

This cooperative effort will save money for thousands of workers who need medicine, for taxpayers whose dollars contribute to the system and it will increase the amount of money available to fund health care for retired teachers.

More than 28,000 Mainers have been insured through our Dirigo Health program. We’ve extended coverage to more families and more small businesses, and we’ve done it in a way that has saved millions of dollars in health care spending.

Last year, we were close to taking the next step with Dirigo. This year, we’ll do it.

I will support Legislative efforts to provide meaningful market reform that will make coverage more affordable for individuals.

And I will work with the Legislature to find a new way to fund Dirigo that is less contentious and more sustainable.

I believe health care is a fundamental and basic right. Every man, woman and child should be able to count on receiving the care they need when they need it.

I am very pleased that the Dirigo Health Agency has contracted with a new partner, Harvard Pilgrim Health.

Harvard Pilgrim is a nonprofit health plan that is consistently ranked No. 1 by consumers nationally. The company brings new and important competition to Maine’s health care marketplace.

I’m pleased to welcome Harvard Pilgrim to Maine, and I want to recognize in the gallery the company’s CEO, Charlie Baker. We’re glad you’re here, and we look forward to working with you.

Charlie, I ask you to rise and accept the greetings of the Chamber.

When I think about what matters most to me, and to the people I meet when I travel around the State, it’s not the ins and outs of a particular policy. It’s not the details that we will wring our hands over from now until April.

What matters most is more basic. It’s family and friends.

Tonight, as I speak to you, Maine has 102 members of the National Guard deployed overseas.

Soon, more men and women will be joining them.

This month 130 members of the 126th Aviation Regiment from Bangor will go to Iraq for the second time. These men and women save lives by putting their own at risk; they fly into danger to rescue other soldiers.

Another 16-person team of National Guard Soldiers will also leave this month for Afghanistan to train that country’s military.

They deserve our appreciation; they deserve our support. Please join me in saluting their service and sacrifice by recognizing Major Brian Veneziano, the commander of the 126th.

Please rise and accept the greetings of the Chamber.

These brave men and women want the same things as you and I: A good job with benefits, a college education for their kids, and to know that their families are nearby and secure.

Family is the most important thing.

Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. It has been an amazing journey.

You could not have a first lady more committed to Maine’s children, to education and to the State. She is a tireless advocate for literacy, and promotes Maine wherever she goes.

I’d like to ask Karen to stand and be recognized by the Chamber.

My family’s not that much different than a lot of others in Maine.

We have our family discussions, agreements and disagreements.

But I have never lost sight of what it means to work hard and still struggle to pay the bills.

I have met countless men and women who play by the rules, go to work everyday and still can’t seem to get ahead.

In 1965, President Johnson understood the great divide in our country and spoke about it.

He said: “In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children must not go hungry. In a land of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended.”

If President Johnson were speaking today and lived in Maine, I think he would have added at least one more line:

In a land of technology, science and abundant natural resources, no family should go to bed wondering if their fuel oil will last until morning, worried that they will wake up cold.

I know families and businesses are struggling with high energy costs.

I have talked to the truck drivers and small business owners who are being pushed to the brink.

And I have heard the call for help.

We will answer that call.

My administration began working on this problem when the weather was still warm and before oil topped out at $100 dollar a barrel.

Working with the United Way, Eastern Maine Funders and the Maine Community Action Agencies, the Keep Maine Warm Fund has raised more than $1 million dollars to provide emergency fuel assistance.

The effort is gaining momentum.

I am pleased to announce tonight that LL Bean will be making a contribution of $250,000 to the Keep Maine Warm Fund, joining such organizations as Irving Oil, The Libra Foundation, The Fisher Foundation, Wright Express, Maine Bank and Trust, and TD Banknorth.

I’d like to thank Leon Gorman, LL Bean’s chairman, for his company’s efforts. Please stand Leon, and accept the greetings of the Chamber.

The Fund is an example of Mainers taking care of Mainers.

I know not everyone is able, but I’d ask those of you who can to join the effort to Keep Maine Warm by making a charitable contribution to this very worthy cause.

Working closely with Maine’s Congressional Delegation, we will continue to put pressure on Washington to release funding for energy assistance.

The money’s there; and we need to put it to work.

I have signed an executive order making it easier for companies to make small fuel deliveries to families in need.

I have sought relief for truck drivers devastated by high diesel costs. During this session, I will submit legislation to help safeguard the forest products industry, which has been particularly hard hit and is so important to our rural economy.

We are doing what we can for as many people as we can. And those efforts will not cease.

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