Governor Paul LePage - Speaches

Recent speeches by Maine's Governor.
  1. (As prepared for delivery on February 13, 2018. Official remarks differ from prepared text. To view a video of Governor LePage's 2018 State of the State speech, visit the link below and scroll down on the right-hand calendar to "6:50:31 PM - STATE OF THE STATE" http://mainelegislature.org/Audio/#house_chamber?event=73953 )

    Chief Justice Saufley, members of the 128th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

    I want to briefly remember Paul Mitchell of Waterville, brother of Senator Mitchell, who passed away this weekend. He was a dedicated public servant and a good friend.

    As I begin the last State of the State Address of my time as Governor of this great state, let me first thank my wife Ann-please stand- for her service to the people of Maine these past seven years. I would not be here tonight without you. Ann, you have made Maine proud as our First Lady-and our family is proud of you. In case I forget, happy Valentine's Day tomorrow.

    I also thank our children. I appreciate my family's willingness to share my time with the duties of being Governor.

    To Staff Sergeant Ronald Fowler of the Air Force's 243rd Engineer Installation Squadron, the military herald this evening, thank you for your selfless service to our state and nation. We congratulate you on being our state's 2018 Outstanding Airman of the Year.

    Ann and I are grateful to all our military and their families for their service.

    I would also like to recognize two members of my staff, Angela Kooistra our sergeant of security and Holly Lusk my chief of staff.

    I'm here tonight to speak to you about the future of our state. We have made progress-but there is much more we could have done and more that we can do to move our state forward.

    In his last State of the Union, President Ronald Reagan said: "If anyone expects just a proud recitation of the accomplishments of my administration, I say let's leave that to history; we're not finished yet. So, my message to you tonight is put on your work shoes; we're still on the job."

    Now is not the time to slow down. I will continue working until the last minute of my last day.

    I came into office saying I will put people before politics, and I have tried to do that. Politics as usual puts our most vulnerable Mainers at risk. As most of you know, I'm no fan of the status quo.

    Today, special interests continue to highjack our ballot box and politicians continue to kowtow to wealthy lobbyists and welfare activists. The Legislature has forgotten about the Mainers who need our help the most.

    Our elderly, our intellectually and physically disabled and even our youth are being left out of the process. I vow to spend my final year as Governor fighting for those Mainers who don't have a voice in Augusta.

    For years I have listened to liberals talk about compassion. Subsidizing solar panels for wealthy homeowners at the expense of our needy is not compassionate. Raising taxes on hard-working families to expand welfare entitlements for able-bodied people is not compassionate. Catering to the activists in the halls of the State House instead of the struggling family businesses on Main Street is not compassionate.

    I know what it's like to need help. That's why I meet one-on-one with constituents on Saturday mornings. That's why I get involved in cases that affect our elderly and our most vulnerable. They need our help. It's our job to help them. We are, after all, public servants.

    ###REDUCING PROPERTY TAXES

    For the past seven years as Governor, my priority has been to make all Mainers prosper.

    Too many Maine families are facing skyrocketing property taxes that strain household budgets. Our elderly on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to these increases. You simply cannot tax your way to prosperity. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, "The power to tax is the power to destroy."

    School budgets are often blamed for property-tax increases. The real culprit is the tremendous amount of land and property value we've allowed to be taken off the tax rolls, leaving homeowners to pick up the tab. These landowners must contribute to our tax base.

    It's time for all land and real estate owners to take the burden off homeowners and pay taxes or a fee in lieu of taxes. The federal government does! Maine property-tax payers need a break.

    We proposed allowing municipalities to collect property taxes or fees from large non-profit entities, and we've tried to require land trusts to contribute to the tax rolls. We have been met with staunch resistance from Democrats.

    We must think outside the box. Tough problems call for tough decisions and solutions. I don't walk away from tough decisions. I've proven that on occasion.

    We established an online registry for all non-profits to report conservation-land ownership.

    The result of all property-tax exemptions reported within municipalities exceeds $18 billion. Think about that-$18 billion.

    The loss of that tax revenue has shifted over $330 million in property taxes onto the backs of local homeowners.

    My office is distributing to each legislator the total value of property taken off the tax rolls for each town, along with the estimated increase in taxes paid annually by property owners.

    Over 4 million acres have been conserved by the federal and state governments, as well as non-profit organizations, such as land trusts. Nearly 20 percent of our state is conserved from development. This is an area larger than the size of Connecticut.

    In 1993, about 35,800 acres of land was owned by land trusts. That number has increased by an astonishing 1,270 percent. Land trusts now control more than half-a-million acres with an estimated value of over $400 million.

    Ask your local officials how much land in your community has been taken off the tax rolls. Ask them how much in tax revenue it would be contributing today to help reduce your property taxes.

    The desire to preserve land without benefit to the taxpayers or their input is out of control. We must restore balance.

    We must ensure that all property owners are required to contribute to the local tax base. Everyone must pay their fair share. It's common sense.

    Richard and Leonette Sukeforth are the elderly couple who were evicted from their home due to their inability to pay their property taxes on their fixed income. Due to health reasons, Mr. and Mrs. Sukeforth were unable to attend tonight.

    In 2015, the town of Albion foreclosed the Sukeforths' home and sold it for $6,500. A compassionate neighbor offered to pay the taxes, but the town officials refused to accept the money. The new owner evicted them and demolished their home.

    I learned of Sukeforths' situation after the foreclosure had occurred-it was too late to help them. I submitted a Governor's bill to protect the elderly from tax lien foreclosures going forward.

    We must fight to protect our parents and grandparents whose fixed income cannot keep up with rising property taxes.

    This common-sense solution will require municipalities to be a bit more compassionate to our elders. I thank Representative Espling for sponsoring this bill, and I urge both chambers to pass it. This is the right thing to do for our senior citizens.

    ###TAX CONFORMITY

    My tax cuts have resulted in tangible savings for Maine families. A family of four earning $90,000 pays 29 percent less than they did under the prior law. A family of four earning $35,000 no longer pays the $298 tax bill they did under the prior law. Despite what my colleagues to my left say, these are not tax breaks for the rich. These cuts are meaningful savings for hard-working families.

    The new federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act will provide more savings for families and businesses. The federal tax cut will result in an estimated economic benefit of approximately $1 billion in 2019. More than $500 million of that will be in direct income tax cuts for Mainers. Our small businesses will receive tax cuts of an additional $200 million.

    Whenever Congress changes the federal tax code, Maine must decide whether to conform our tax code to the federal changes. Doing so is better for the taxpayer because it simplifies tax filing.

    It is also better for the state because the IRS takes the lead on income-tax compliance, and we do not have to fund duplicate services, like additional auditors, in Maine.

    For that reason, I will be proposing legislation to conform to the new federal law. However, since strict conformity would result in a tax increase to Mainers, my bill will include a proposal that offsets any tax increase. Let me make this perfectly clear: I will not support any conformity measure that results in a net increase in income taxes.

    In fact, I will not support ANY increase in taxes for either tax conformity or to pay for Medicaid expansion.

    ###MEDICAID EXPANSION

    Maine's previous experiment with Medicaid expansion plunged our state into financial disarray. However, make no mistake: Medicaid expansion is the law, and I will execute the law. But funding it is the Legislature's constitutional duty, as it is the Legislature's job to appropriate the funds.

    Appropriate the money, so we can implement the law. The time is now-not after the next election.

    I have laid out four basic principles to guide your decision on how to pay for Medicaid expansion. I will not jeopardize the state's long-term fiscal health. We must avoid the budget disasters of the past.

    We must fund Medicaid expansion in a way that is sustainable and ongoing. Therefore, my principles are as follows:

    1. No tax increases on Maine families or businesses. 2. No use of the Budget Stabilization Fund (which we call the "Rainy Day Fund"). 3. No use of other one-time funding mechanisms-known as budget gimmicks. 4. Full funding for vulnerable Mainers who are still waiting for services, and no reduction of services or funding for our nursing homes or people with disabilities.

    It would be fiscally irresponsible for the Legislature to demand we implement Medicaid expansion without adequate funding. It is simply not too much to ask the Legislature to prioritize our truly needy over those looking for a taxpayer-funded handout.

    DHHS cannot hire and train the additional 105 staff needed to run the expanded Medicaid program without money. We cannot pay the state's share of the new enrollees' medical bills without funding.

    Democrats, hospitals, advocacy groups and wealthy out-of-state special interests who campaigned for this referendum claim that adding 80,000 people to a taxpayer-funded entitlement program will save money. I take you at your word. Show me the money and put your plan in writing. Show the Maine people how you will pay for Medicaid expansion.

    I ask Theresa Daigle and Josiah Godfrey to please stand up. These are the people you should be thinking about. Theresa has shared with me the hardships she and her son have experienced while awaiting services for his physical and intellectual challenges. Josiah has autism, an intellectual disability, and bipolar disorder. He qualifies for services, but he is stuck on your waitlist.

    Because his mother will need to care for him, it will be impossible for her to continue working. She has been told that she may need to leave Josiah at St. Mary's and refuse to pick him up-thus making him homeless-in order to qualify for Section 21 services. THIS IS WRONG!

    I ask that the Legislature fully fund these programs so people like the Daigles can get the help they desperately need and qualify for. I have proposed to fully fund them, but Legislators chose to use the money for other programs, like giving welfare to illegal immigrants. That is simply wrong. Maine people need to come first.

    Do the right thing for Josiah and his worried mother. Fund the Section 21 and 29 programs.

    ###KEEPING YOUNG PEOPLE IN MAINE

    Now, many legislators tell me that they don't pass bad bills. Let me give the Maine people tonight an example of a horrible bill.

    I vetoed a bill that would prohibit 18-year-old adults from buying cigarettes, but the Legislature overturned it. This law denies rights and responsibilities to 18-year-old adults who want to purchase a legal product.

    This is not about cigarettes-no one should ever start smoking. This is about protecting our personal choices from an ever-expanding nanny state.

    Our laws must recognize one age when adulthood begins. You, the Legislature, must pick that age. I don't care what the age is, whether it is 18 or 21. It can't be both.

    Legislators have no problem letting 18-year-olds vote for them in elections or die in wars. Let's think about that a moment-legislators think 18-year-olds are not adult enough to decide whether they should purchase cigarettes. But they think 18-year-olds are adult enough to vote on complex referendums like the legalization of marijuana, the elimination of the tip credit, and a 3 percent tax surcharge that would devastate our economy.

    Young adults should be treated like adults. If 18-year-olds can fight for our country, pay taxes, get married and divorced and make personal medical decisions-and even younger teens can use birth control and smoke "medical" marijuana-then let's make adulthood start at 18. If they can do all that, they should be able to decide if they want to buy legal products.

    The last I knew this was still a free country. That includes the freedom to make personal choices-free from government interference.

    Frankly, drinking is no different, the federal government uses the threat of defunding road construction if 18 year olds are allowed to drink, so let's make adulthood 21.

    ###INVESTING IN OUR ECONOMY

    We are the oldest state in the nation. We must attract young people to Maine. Our current position requires us to get serious about growing our state. Please join me in this effort.

    I will put forth bills this session to support investment in Maine and the development of our workforce. We have spent seven years fixing Maine's balance sheet. Now is the time to make investments in our economy and for the Maine people.

    Our bond sales have not focused on commercialization. I support a commercialization bond. Maine has always supported research-and-development bonds, hoping it would create jobs. Although R&D is critical, it is not enough to bring an innovative idea to market.

    Developing a patent that sits on a shelf is not a good return on investment for our taxpayers. We must focus on commercialization.

    Our innovators create a vast array of products in many industries: bio-tech; high-tech; forest products; manufacturing; aquaculture; agriculture. We must invest in commercialization as we do in research.

    Let's get our products to market. Let's offer excellent careers at high wages for our people. Let's attract newcomers to our state.

    If our state is to survive and prosper, we need to grow our workforce and keep our economy growing. Record numbers of baby boomers are entering retirement. Employers need to replace these skilled workers. For our economy to continue to grow, we must attract and retain young people.

    Not only will these young people work in our industries, but they will also buy homes, pay taxes, invigorate our communities and, yes, have children.

    We can invest in our young people by relieving some of the burden of student debt for those who want to stay in Maine or choose to relocate here and start their professional careers.

    High student-loan payments prevent our young people from buying a house or a car or spending their money at local businesses. Many take higher-paying jobs out of state to survive. They simply cannot afford to live in Maine.

    We cannot continue to sit by while our employers have vacant positions that young people could fill. I will be submitting legislation again to create and fund initiatives that make these strategic investments.

    My initiative-the Maine Student Loan Debt Relief Program-calls for a $50 million bond to fund zero-interest student loans to keep Maine kids in school attending Maine colleges and universities.

    It also calls for a new, low-interest refinancing program to encourage graduates from outside Maine to work in our great state.

    In addition, I am asking the Legislature to simplify and increase the Opportunity Maine tax credit so employers can attract and retain the young workforce we need. The return on these investments will pay enormous dividends by encouraging young people to come here and help to reverse our declining population.

    Good-paying jobs attract workers. To attract manufacturing jobs, more than half the states-28-have passed Right to Work legislation.

    Kentucky became a Right to Work state in 2017. It has already proven to be a major catalyst for growth. Kentucky shattered its annual economic investment record in 2017, reaching $9.2 billion-nearly doubling its previous record of $5.1 billion.

    Mainers are missing out on these opportunities. I urge you to have a serious debate on Right to Work.

    ###FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

    Despite our challenges, we have made state government more efficient and more accountable. We lowered the tax burden on hard-working Mainers. We cut the pension-fund deficit by nearly half. We paid off the hospital debt. We reformed welfare.

    People say they want government to run like a business-until it does. Now we must make sure our progress is not hijacked by big-money, out-of-state liberals who continue to use our broken referendum process as a means of implementing their social-engineering agenda.

    The will of the people is the constitution of our state-a representative republic. But if we want to govern through referendum, we do not need a Legislature. However, as we have seen, governing through referendum has been very destructive to many true democracies.

    It took a shutdown of state government to prevent the most damaging of the 2016 referenda from taking effect.

    I will fight just as hard this year to make sure we keep moving forward. There is nothing wrong with Maine people realizing a bit of prosperity.

    I am pleased to report that the state of our financial house is good. In fact, it is in better shape than any time in the past 40 years. Our economy is strong. Unemployment is at 3 percent-down from 8 percent in 2011, and lower than the national and New England averages.

    And the number that some call the "real" unemployment rate, which includes people working part-time or those no longer even looking for work, has fallen to Maine's lowest-level ever.

    The number of jobs in our private sector is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, our problem is we have more deaths than births. That is why we must continue to be fiscally responsible. We must enact policies to attract young people, not chase them away.

    Our good fiscal health is the result of making tough decisions and taking bold action-like using the liquor bond to pay off our hospital debt.

    We have had a positive General Fund cash position for the past three fiscal years. We project this fiscal year's General Fund ending cash will remain positive. But we cannot pat ourselves on the back and say we have done enough. The job is not done.

    Before I took office, Augusta used the Budget Stabilization Fund as their own personal slush fund. It damaged our credit rating and put the state at risk during financial emergencies. We've built this rainy-day fund to over $200 million-an amount greater than the average of the funds of all New England states.

    We promised to bring fiscal sanity to Augusta, and we did it.

    The credit rating agencies have improved our credit rating. It is less expensive now for us to borrow money to improve our roads and bridges and to fund other essential capital projects.

    We should strive to become a Triple-A-rated credit risk. Increasing the fund to $300 million would help us achieve this goal. We must keep moving forward.

    We have right-sized the state's workforce, making it more efficient and more accountable. Former administrations balanced the budget on the backs of our state workers. I promised not to do that-and I didn't. We eliminated the furlough days; we restored merit pay increases; and we provided cost-of living increases, which will total 6 percent this biennium.

    We told the state employees that if they like their union, they can keep their union. But we also told them that if they didn't want to join the union, they didn't have to, and we let them keep their wages instead of paying fees to subsidize a political agenda. And many have!

    ###WE MUST CONTINUE OUR PROGRESS

    We need legislators who will pass laws that make sense and help Maine families-not politicians looking for feel-good headlines.

    We have made great progress implementing reforms that have brought greater prosperity and created jobs. Just today, the North Carolina-based company LignaTerra announced it will build a new, cross-laminated timber facility at the former Great Northern Paper site in Millinocket.

    We've been working with the company the last few months, and we are pleased that it will invest $28 million and eventually create 120 new, good-paying jobs. Welcome to Maine, LignaTerra! Your investment is welcomed and appreciated.

    My administration has eliminated red tape, created charter schools, cut taxes, improved our infrastructure, created new trade relationships, and reformed health insurance to lower costs-to name just a few reforms. Reforming government is hard work, but it is the right thing to do for our people.

    I thank Representative Ken Fredette, Representative Ellie Espling, Representative Jeff Timberlake, Representative Heather Sirocki, Representative John Martin, and Representative Craig Hickman, as well as Senator Rob Whittemore, Senator Lisa Kiem, Senator Eric Brakey, and Senator Troy Jackson for working with me.

    This is an election year, and this year's vote will be especially important. Mainers get the government they vote for. So I urge the Maine people to think carefully before going to the polls.

    Think long and hard who you will send to the Legislature and to the Blaine House.

    You will be voting to either protect Maine's fiscal health or to let politicians run it back into the ground.

    You will be voting on whether to keep our taxes low and to maintain the right size of government or to let special interests and public-sector unions raise taxes and bloat government for their socialist agenda.

    You will be voting on whether to respect our young adults or exploit our youth and chase them out of the state. You will vote on whether to keep growing our economy or to stifle it.

    You will also be voting to continue our significant progress on welfare reform. Our policies now protect our most vulnerable while encouraging those on welfare to look for work, if they are able. We are offering people a hand up, not a hand out.

    You will be voting on whether to continue these common-sense welfare reforms or whether to return to the days of out-of-control welfare entitlements that almost bankrupted the state.

    In my Inaugural address, I made a pledge to the Maine People, "to put you before politics: The parents trying to make a better life for their kids; The retirees trying to hold onto their homes on a fixed income; The college graduate trying to find a good paying job; The entrepreneurs with the courage to take a chance on an idea; and The taxpayers tired of footing the bill for a bloated establishment in Augusta.

    It is time to make state government accountable. It is time to deliver value. It is time to put Mainers first."

    Those were the promises I made, and those are the promises I have kept. I promise to continue to fight for you until 11:59 a.m. on Inauguration Day.

    To all the hard-working Maine taxpayers out there, it has been the biggest privilege of my life to work on your behalf as your Governor.

    As a homeless kid living on the streets of Lewiston, I never imagined I would one day make it to the Blaine House. You are in my thoughts and prayers every minute of every day. Your prosperity is paramount for Maine's success.

    I fought for you every day, and it has not been easy. But I would not have had it any other way. Thank you for letting me serve you and our great state.

    I leave you with this quote President Reagan attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

    "You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves."

    God Bless the great State of Maine and God Bless America!

    We still have much to do-let's get to work.
  2. Members of the 128th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

    Let me begin by first recognizing a few individuals. To my lovely wife Ann and my children-please stand-I would not be here tonight without you. Ann, you have made Maine proud as our First Lady.

    Allison Salsbury of Bar Harbor is here tonight with her daughter, Kathy. She is an elderly widow, and she knows about the hardships Mainers are facing.

    To Technical Sergeant Christopher Ludden, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

    Ann and I are so grateful to all of our military and their families for their service.

    I'm here tonight to speak to the Maine people about the future of our state. Our economy and our way of life are under attack.

    Older Mainers who have worked their entire lives are losing their homes because of tax or utility bills-and many local governments condone it. Sadly, Maine Municipal Association defends it.

    The taxes Mainers have paid all their lives fund the organization that throws them on the street. It has to stop. We must protect our elderly!

    We must also protect younger Mainers. Our families are losing good-paying jobs. It's all because of a faulty ideology.

    Maine was once renowned for its rugged individualism. Liberals are now trying to transform our state into a socialist utopia.

    Utopia is an ideology-no amount of taxpayers' money can make it a reality.

    We have made great strides in shrinking state government, but liberals continue to provide all things to all people free. "Free" is very expensive to someone.

    As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during his Annual Message to Congress in 1935:

    "The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.

    "To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America."

    It was true in 1935, and it is true in 2017. Liberals have not learned from history. They have just changed tactics. They are doing an end run around the Legislature by highjacking the citizens' referendum process.

    They say they are helping low-income Mainers by raising the minimum wage and taxing the so-called "rich." But they are harming our economy. We are losing doctors, dentists, psychiatrists and other professionals we so badly need. They are harming small family businesses. They are harming low-income workers. Even worse, they are harming our elderly.

    Successful people are not the problem; they are the solution. They create jobs.

    They pay the most in sales, excise, income and property taxes. They already pay two-thirds of the tax burden in Maine.

    Taxing them out of Maine does not help our economy-it harms it.

    It is harmful to lay off employees. It is harmful to put your local restaurant out of business. It is harmful to drive our elderly deeper into poverty.

    Liberals from Southern Maine never go to Calais or Machias or Rumford or Fort Kent. But I do. I see the elderly living in poverty.

    I see how Maine families are struggling. Our industries are laying off hard-working Mainers or leaving the state.

    Madison Paper, Verso in Bucksport, Verso in Jay, Lincoln Pulp and Paper, Millinocket and East Millinocket and Old Town-just to name a few.

    We need to help our families, not harm them. My budget has a theme: Do No Harm. I am asking you to join me-Do No Harm! Our citizens voted to raise the minimum wage. They also voted to "tax the rich." I get it. But they did not read the legislation behind the ballot questions. They didn't know it would destroy our fragile economy.

    We reduced the unfunded pension liability. We improved our credit rating. We paid the hospitals!

    We built the Budget Stabilization Fund from nearly zero to $123 million. It could have been $300 million, if we had the will to be just a bit more fiscally responsible.

    We reduced the structural gap from $1.2 billion to $165 million. For the first time since 2005, we had positive cash flow at the end of the fiscal year.

    We have lowered the income tax from 8.5 percent to 7.15 percent. During this period, revenues started to increase. Wow, imagine that-signs of prosperity.

    Under my administration, Maine has been moving forward. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Free enterprise has done more to reduce poverty than all the government programs dreamed up by liberals.

    Liberals are making the Legislature irrelevant and going straight to referendum. We need to reform our referendum process.

    TAX REFORM Rich, out-of-state unions and progressive groups are moving us backwards. They spent millions to hit us with the second-highest income tax in the country.

    California's highest tax rate kicks in at $1 million of income. Maine's starts at $200,000 household income. California is a wealthy state.

    It is 18th on the Family Prosperity Index-Maine is 44th. We cannot afford this tax.

    We must help Maine families achieve prosperity-not shatter their American Dreams with high taxation, high energy costs and an underperforming education system.

    Eliminating the income tax is the biggest pay raise Mainers could get-but there is no political will to promote prosperity in Augusta.

    My budget counteracts the damage from the 10.15 percent income tax. It is designed to do no harm.

    By 2020, Maine's income tax will be set at 5.75 percent for all Maine families. We must keep lowering the income tax until it is gone!

    My budget lowers corporate taxes, broadens the sales tax and eliminates the death tax. The non-partisan Tax Foundation called my tax plan "a recipe for a more competitive state."

    It cuts taxes, welcomes professionals and allows families businesses to thrive. It does no harm!

    MINIMUM WAGE As written, the law to raise the minimum wage will wreak havoc. Mainers did not read the 32 pages of legal jargon behind the ballot question.

    If the question asked Mainers to slash the pay for their favorite server, they would have said no.

    If it asked them to increase the cost of everything their grandparents buy, they would have said no.

    Let's be clear: I am not opposed to a higher minimum wage. But I would rather talk about career wages. Liberals always aim low-they want to raise the starter wage.

    I don't want to create more 9-dollar-an-hour jobs. I want to create 29-dollar-an-hour jobs.

    The minimum wage law will be devastating to the restaurant industry. Menu prices will increase dramatically to cover the new labor costs.

    It will eliminate the tip credit for employers, which will end tipping as we know it.

    Restaurant servers who now make $20 to $30 an hour will get $12 an hour with much lower tips-if any. This promotes poverty-not prosperity.

    This law will prevent teens and low-skilled workers from getting jobs. Employers will not pay $12 an hour for a kid with no work experience or someone with no skills.

    Higher prices will push the elderly deeper into poverty. 358,000 Mainers on fixed incomes won't get a raise. They cannot afford higher prices.

    The minimum wage will go up $4 an hour, but the average increase in Social Security is just $4 a month.

    Indexing is even worse. It means the minimum wage will go automatically every year-even in a recession.

    We got rid of indexing for the gasoline tax because the tax kept going up, even after gas hit $4 a gallon during the Great Recession.

    We already have an employee shortage across the state. Most places already pay more than a minimum wage. It was never supposed to be a living wage.

    It is used as a starter wage and for those who cannot work at 100 percent capacity.

    Make no mistake, this is not about economics. It is about a socialist ideology-the same kind that has failed in Greece, Venezuela and other countries.

    Liberals only care about ideology. They don't care about raising prices on your grandparents. They don't care if your teen can't find work or mentally disabled people lose their jobs.

    They don't care if they slash the pay for a single mother working as a waitress from $20 to $12.

    ELDERLY This budget protects the people liberals consider expendable. They have forgotten the elderly.

    They have forgotten the disabled and those with intellectual disabilities. It seems that whenever the Governor proposes to help the elderly or the mentally and physically disabled, it gets killed in committee.

    That's why the Maine people and the American people say government is not working. I don't care who gets credit for helping them. We just need to get it done for the Maine people.

    Patrick and Janet Caskin of Litchfield wrote to me to say their daughter Katie is still on a waitlist for intensive home support. She has an intellectual disability. She has been on the Section 21 waitlist for five years.

    Two years ago, my budget paid for the entire Section 21 waitlist. If the Legislature funded my initiative, Katie would be getting full-time care today.

    But liberals have forgotten Mainers like Katie. She is not a priority for them.

    Liberals only funded one-third of the waitlist. They spent the rest of the money on welfare for able-bodied, non-citizen asylum seekers.

    They don't care about our elderly or the physically and mentally disabled. I do. When it comes to our most vulnerable citizens, I will do no harm!

    We have realigned the welfare system and the Medicaid program to prioritize the elderly and those with all forms of disabilities.

    As Ronald Reagan said: "We should measure welfare's success by how many people leave welfare, not how many are added." Able-bodied Mainers between 19 and 50 need to get off welfare. Get off the couch and get a job!

    Our limited resources are helping our most vulnerable. In our budget, elderly and disabled Mainers make up more than 40 percent of MaineCare-an increase of 35 percent since 2011.

    In Fiscal Year 2019, the elderly and disabled will make up 45 percent of MaineCare.

    My budget includes more than $30 million to help with increased costs for Medicare Part B and Part D. We also need to eliminate the income tax on retired pensioners. We provide tax relief to low-income and elderly homeowners with the Property Tax Fairness Credit.

    This should help elderly Mainers like Juliet Nyholt of Solon, who has been struggling to pay her taxes. In 1986, her taxes were $300-now they are over $2,000. This is wrong.

    No Mainer should be taxed out of their home-especially when environmental groups are taking hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of land value off the tax rolls.

    Communities and the Maine Municipal Association may do things right-they follow the law regarding tax liens and foreclosures. But they should do the right thing-help our elderly stay in their homes.

    It is unethical and immoral to take away a senior citizen's home. They lose all the equity they built up during their lives. They end up on the street.

    Richard Sukeforth, an elderly veteran, and his wife, Leonette, lost their home in Albion after the town seized it for back taxes. They were thrown out with no place to go. He is here with his daughter, Yvette.

    I'm pleased to announce Adria Horn of our Bureau of Veterans Services jumped into action and discovered he was eligible for VA benefits.

    Mr. Sukeforth is now getting almost $1,200 a month. This is how we should treat our elderly!

    OPIOID CRISIS We are also addressing the opioid crisis that is ravaging our state.

    We have been urging the Legislature to take action for years, but many have been dragging their feet.

    They held up our efforts to hire more MDEA agents for two years-God only knows how much heroin poured into our state during that time.

    Back then, heroin was killing 5 Mainers a week. Now it's over 7.

    MDEA seized 8 pounds of heroin in January-that's almost 50,000 deadly doses of heroin mixed with fentanyl. It was the largest seizure of heroin in the state's history. It saved thousands of lives. Law enforcement works.

    But liberals don't care about law enforcement efforts to stop out-of-state drug dealers from selling their poison to Mainers.

    They simply want to throw money at treatment programs. They don't identify which programs the money should go to-they just want the headlines to say they are doing something. We are doing something. Strong financial management at DHHS has allowed us to budget an extra $2.4 million in funding for opioid-addiction treatment for the uninsured.

    This money will fund 359 openings for therapy and medication-assisted treatment for uninsured Mainers afflicted by the heroin and the opioids-immediately.

    Seven Mainers a week are being killed by deadly opiates. Three babies a day are born afflicted by or addicted to drugs. This drug epidemic is killing our young people.

    EDUCATION REFORMS Liberals haven't just forgotten our elderly. They have forgotten our children, too.

    Out-of-state teachers' unions spent millions on a referendum to tax the so-called "rich."

    We do not need more money for education-we need more accountability in education.

    Only 59 cents of every dollar spent on education in Maine makes it into the classroom. The national average is 64 cents. Our children deserve more!

    This attempt to "tax the rich" will drive successful people out of Maine. Only 10 percent of taxpayers pay two-thirds of the tax burden in Maine. By chasing them out of the state, liberals will generate less money for education-not more.

    We are seeking accountability and efficiency in education funding. Instead of spending money on a top-heavy administrative structure, we direct it where it is needed most: our students and our underpaid teachers.

    This budget enables communities to form regional education systems to reduce administrative costs.

    More importantly, this budget sets the stage for a statewide teacher contract. This contract will increase the base pay for teacher salaries and increase access to quality teachers throughout Maine.

    Good teachers in rural Maine are lured away by wealthy communities that pay more.

    This needs to stop. Teachers in rural Maine should get the same pay as teachers in wealthy towns. All Maine children deserve good teachers!

    We also need to stop double-dipping, and we need to pay effective teachers what they are worth. Gimmicks like double-dipping will come to haunt our education system. We need to replace the unsustainable age imbalance and let young teachers enter our school system.

    We are also reducing the cost of higher education. We have increased funding to the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy to help control tuition cost.

    We want to make it easier for young people to stay in Maine. I will once again propose funding for zero-interest loans for all higher ed students who decide to live and work in Maine.

    Business owners who help pay off student loans should be able to write it off quickly-not over 20 years.

    ENERGY Young people need good jobs. Businesses need all the help they can get to stay competitive and create good jobs.

    The PUC's decision on net energy billing is the latest example. It raises rates on elderly and poor Mainers to subsidize solar panels for affluent people.

    This rate hike was pushed by environmentalists, special interests, the public advocate and some Legislative leaders. Rather than protect Maine ratepayers, the PUC caved to special interests.

    I have no problem if wealthy people with solar panels are paid for the excess electricity they generate. However, they should not be paid for the transmission and distribution of the excess power.

    The PUC ruled Mainers will pay for the excess generation, as well as the transmission and distribution of the excess power. But Emera and CMP will also charge the ratepayers to transmit and distribute this excess electricity.

    Ratepayers are being charged twice so people who put solar panels on their roof can recoup their money faster. Our elderly, our poor and our most vulnerable Mainers should not be subsidizing people who can afford to install expensive solar panels.

    The wealthy solar industry will line its pockets on the backs of hardworking Mainers-not to mention our poor and most vulnerable who can least afford it.

    We should be able to agree on a sensible energy policy. We should provide the most affordable energy that does the least harm to the environment.

    I ask the Legislature three questions:

    1. Should we lower energy costs?

    2. Should we lower carbon dioxide levels in the most cost-effective manner?

    3. Should we reduce our demand for oil?

    If we agree the answer to all three is "yes," then we can become a state that supports job creators and protects the environment.

    But liberals continue to support their favorite-and very expensive-forms of renewal energy. They have no political desire to reduce rates for Mainers.

    Our energy costs have gone from 12th highest in the nation to 11thhighest. We are going backwards.

    Liberals continue to deny the harm they are doing to our job creators and our economy. Put very simply, higher rates leave less money for higher wages.

    CONCLUSION We are trying to attract small businesses and successful young professionals. We need creative innovators with an entrepreneurial spirit.

    We must keep our families here and attract new families from other states and countries. We must give our young people a reason to stay in Maine.

    We have worked hard to reduce spending and limit the growth of government. It has not been easy.

    When writing about American Presidents, Andy Jones said: "Whenever government in general is smaller, the people have more say over their own lives, and the nation becomes more prosperous."

    We are trying to make Maine more prosperous. It takes courage. We were elected to make tough decisions for the hard-working taxpayers and the forgotten Mainers-not just lobbyists and special interests.

    We are here to make sure our progress is not rolled back by poorly thought-out referendums. We are here do no harm. Over the next two years, I hope we can work together to set Maine on the path to future prosperity.

    I ask you, the members of the 128th Legislature, to join me in protecting our economy, our families, our small businesses and, most importantly, our elderly.

    Despite the challenges facing us, I ask you to move Maine forward-not backward. I ask you to do no harm. Now, let's get to work!

  3. The following is text as prepared of Governor Paul R. LePage's 2015 State of the State Address

    Chief Justice Saufley, President Thibodeau, Speaker Eves, members of the 127th Legislature, distinguished guests, and fellow Mainers.

    Tonight, I am here to update you, the people of Maine, about the condition of our great state.

    First, I must recognize my wife, Ann. I would not be here tonight without you.

    You have made Maine proud as our First Lady, especially through your support of our armed services and their families.

    To my family and friends, I appreciate all you have done-and all you continue to do-to support me.

    Staff Sergeant Sarah Cayia, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

    I ask that we all take a moment to remember, recognize and thank our men and women in uniform.

    I would like to make a very important announcement. I am the only Republican that will not be running for President - yet.

    I became Governor for one simple reason. I want prosperity-not poverty-for all Maine people.

    Doing "business as usual" hurts our ability to be competitive. It favors poverty and prevents prosperity.

    Mainers, it's time to innovate. We need an efficient, effective and affordable government. But change is hard. It's much easier to protect the status quo.

    Studies sit on shelves, collecting dust. Politicians talk about tax reform every year. Nothing meaningful gets done.

    We must make hard decisions today so we can have prosperity tomorrow for our future generations.

    I made hard decisions all my life-the necessary decisions to help companies grow and expand.

    I was a mayor. I understand the needs versus the wants for municipalities.

    As Governor, I've listened to Mainers. They want to succeed and prosper.

    My budget takes bold action. It is the first step-a big leap forward. Friends, I can't do it alone. I need your help. We must do it together.

    The Maine people want results, not rhetoric. They want action!

    TAX REFORM

    Washington, D.C. is broken. Our future depends now more than ever on the states. They are the 50 laboratories of democracy.

    Our country has the highest income taxes in the world. This makes our nation uncompetitive.

    Maine is currently not competitive nationally or globally. Our tax system is antiquated. We must modernize it.

    My fellow Mainers, you work hard for your paycheck. The government takes your earnings, and you have no control over how it is spent.

    You earned it. You should keep it!

    An income tax cut puts money back in your pocket. It is a pay raise for all working Mainers.

    With consumption taxes, you make the choice. You decide where you spend your money. And let me be clear: this plan does not tax funerals. It does not tax car repairs. It does not tax groceries or other necessities.

    My plan makes sure more taxes are paid by tourists - not by Mainers. Approximately 650,000 Maine tax returns pay the income tax.

    On the other hand, 29 million tourists a year pay sales taxes on almost every purchase they make.

    Our refundable sales tax credit helps lower- and middle-income Mainers get their money back.

    This plan is different from past plans. It is not a tax shift. It is a tax cut for all Mainers.

    My vision is a Maine with no income tax. But I'm no magician. It takes time.

    When I took office, Maine's top income tax rate was 8.5 percent-one of the highest in the nation.

    We reduced the rate to 7.95 percent-a baby step. This plan cuts it to 5.75 percent-a 40 percent decrease in the income tax since I took office. That's one big step.

    A young married couple, both teachers with one child, claiming a standard deduction, would get a $1,500 pay raise.

    That's a mortgage payment. That's few tanks of heating oil. It's several car payments or back-to-school clothes for the kids. It's real money. It makes a real difference.

    Other tax reform plans were "revenue neutral." They were created by politicians to serve special interests. My one special interest is the Maine people.

    My plan cuts spending. It gives money back to you: the Maine people.

    This plan reduces the tax burden on Maine families and small businesses by $300 million. That's a real pay raise for the Maine people!

    If Maine is to prosper, we must have courage.

    There are 9 states with no income tax. 19 other states are working to reduce or eliminate the income tax. Maine is leading the nation with our bold plan. We're the first out of the chute.

    Let's show the nation-and the world-that Maine is serious about job creation. The Tax Foundation says this plan would propel Maine's ranking from 33 to 23. That's not a jump, that's a leap.

    But 23 is not good enough. Let's aim for the top 10.

    Maine's corporate tax is a job killer. My plan cuts it. We also eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.

    We will catapult Maine from 45th to 17th place in corporate tax rankings. And trust me, that's a big deal for job creators.

    Our past rankings said: "Stay away from Maine." My plan says: "Come to Maine. We want your jobs!"

    REVENUE SHARING

    Local officials care about municipal budgets. They take money from Mainers to grow the town office.

    I care about the people who live in the town. I want to give Mainers their hard-earned money back. Someone must lobby for the Maine taxpayer.

    The Maine Municipal Association is supposed to represent cities and towns. MMA is not a taxpayer-friendly organization. Its mission is to protect local officials-not local taxpayers.

    Your local officials pay dues to MMA with your tax dollars. MMA uses those dues to fight for bigger and more expensive local government.

    They should be called the Middle Man Association. They pit local taxpayers against local officials. They fight against any kind of tax reductions.

    In Waterville, the city manager worries about a one-million-dollar loss in revenue sharing. Neighboring Winslow gets $500,000 in revenue sharing.

    But residents of Waterville and Winslow are paying 17-million-dollars in income taxes.

    I ask them: Would you trade 1.5-million-dollars to keep 17-million-dollars in your pockets? I'll take that deal any day.

    A number of property tax relief programs have passed - and all failed. It's time for state government to worry about state taxes. Local government should focus on local taxes.

    Programs to lower property taxes should benefit homeowners-not government offices. My plan expands the Property Tax Fairness Credit. That helps low- and middle-income homeowners.

    We double the Homestead Exemption for our senior citizens. They worked all of their lives for their homes. Let's make sure they can stay in them.

    We help local government identify other sources of revenue. We give them the telecommunications excise tax.

    We allow local government to collect tax revenue from large non-profits. They provide valuable services.

    However, they do use public services-just like everyone else. They must help ease the burden on all Maine people.

    For our state to prosper, everyone has to pitch in. Working-class Mainers cannot do it alone.

    RETIREES, VETERANS AND ELDERLY

    My budget is not a Band-Aid to get us through the next budget cycle.

    It drives prosperity for decades to come. It looks past the next election and focuses on future generations.

    We need to attract more young people and families. We need to keep our retirees here.

    My plan reduces the tax burden on our families, our veterans and our retirees.

    Family businesses are the backbone of our economy. We must keep them alive and well.

    We will eliminate the estate tax. Only 19 other states impose this "death tax." It punishes family businesses in Maine.

    We end the tax on military pensions. Let's attract military retirees to Maine. We want these highly trained men and women to live and work here.

    Too many Mainers move to Florida or elsewhere for 6 months and a day. That's why we cut taxes on all other retirement pensions.

    This keeps our retirees in Maine. Even better, it keeps their assets here.

    BUDGET PRIORITIES

    My budget also ensures our most vulnerable get the care that they need and deserve.

    We have reformed Maine's Medicaid program. We now prioritize our elderly, the disabled and those with intellectual disabilities.

    My budget increases funding for nursing homes. I will continue to fight to keep our nursing homes open.

    Maine needs common-sense welfare reforms. We are drug testing TANF recipients. Welfare dollars should not support a drug habit.

    We are putting photos on EBT cards. We are sending the message that we do not support welfare fraud.

    We are making sure our limited welfare dollars go to Mainers in need, not illegal aliens.

    We are getting people off welfare. Our administration has helped more than 1,200 Mainers who were on welfare find full-time careers. Our welfare-to-work program is moving Mainers from poverty to prosperity.

    Throwing money at poverty does not help people prosper - it never did and never will.

    Instead, we are investing our time to teach needy Mainers how to succeed. We are giving them the skills and self-esteem they need to lead productive and satisfying lives.

    My budget also addresses the drug epidemic facing Maine. We fund more agents in the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. We add more prosecutors and judges.

    More Mainers are dying from drug overdoses than traffic deaths. Too many babies are being born addicted to drugs. This has to stop.

    We must save our children and families from the poison being sold on our streets.

    We cannot allow vicious, out-of-state drug traffickers to use Maine as their marketplace. My plan will hunt down these criminals and hold them accountable.

    ENERGY

    High energy costs drive away business and raise rates for Mainers. We must lower electricity rates and home heating costs.

    Maine's renewable energy policies are broken - they are expensive and ineffective.

    Look at the mills in Millinocket and Bucksport - look at the curtailment in other paper mills.

    We have affordable natural gas right in our backyard and hydropower just over the border in Canada and right here in Maine. Let's use it!

    We will seek to lift the 100 megawatt cap on all forms of renewable energy. I favor any kind of energy that lowers prices for Mainers now-not 20 years from now.

    We need more affordable and efficient hydropower and access to more natural gas-not just high-priced, special-interest energy.

    We should follow other states and return money from the regional cap-and-trade program to our businesses that are struggling with high energy costs. This will return millions of dollars to Maine rate payers.

    We must help Mainers invest in more affordable heating options.

    Once again, we will request to use $5 million from the increased timber harvest to do this.

    For four years, we fought for more affordable heating options for Mainers. Legislators and special interests stopped us cold.

    This hurts Maine. This hurts Maine people. We must expose it for what it is.

    No Mainer should be cold during the winter. Let's help them invest in heat pumps, install wood stoves or upgrade to highly efficient oil burners.

    Furthermore, if we do nothing, our forest resources will be destroyed by invasive insects, as happened in the 1970s and '80s.

    We are on the verge of another budworm epidemic on our forest in the next few years. We can shorten its devastation.

    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

    The First Lady's personal mission has been to serve our veterans and military families. My mission is the fight against domestic violence.

    If you have not lived through this heinous crime, you cannot imagine how destructive it is or the unseen scars it leaves on its victims.

    There were 21 homicides in Maine in 2014. That's down from 25 in 2013.

    But 14 of these homicides were related to domestic violence. Even worse, 8 of those murders were children under 13.

    Domestic violence is killing our children and our families. This is unconscionable. We must speak out to eradicate this heinous crime.

    CONCLUSION

    I want prosperity, not poverty, for all Mainers-even my adversaries.

    My vision is an economy that allows all Maine families to thrive and succeed.

    Every Mainer deserves the chance to achieve their American Dream.

    My budget is just the start. I cannot do it alone. I need your help.

    We must make sure the income tax keeps going down every year until it is gone.

    I ask for a constitutional amendment that will direct all growth in revenue to go toward eliminating the income tax-once and for all.

    We're not doing all this work just to let career politicians reverse it after I'm gone.

    I want prosperity for all Mainers. We must work together to make it happen. We must take bold action now. The time for talk is over. Let's get to work.
  4. Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the 127th Legislature and honored guests. Welcome.

    First, I must thank Ann and my children for their love and support during the last four years and particularly through the recent campaign, which was very negative. I'm so proud of their strength and resilience through it all.

    I'm especially proud of Ann, who has dedicated so much to the veterans of our state over the past four years.

    However, I hope she doesn't jump out of any more planes! Je dois aussi remercier mon collègue Franco Américans pour leur soutien. Je suis un enfant des rues du petit Canada, je n'ai jamais imaginé qu'un jour, je deviendrais votre gouverneur.

    Mais à vous prendre en charge, nous l'avons fait. J'ai jamais oublier où je venais, et je n'oublierai jamais votre soutien indéfectible. Merci beaucoup mais aimee.

    Well, folks, we're back. The national experts and the media said we wouldn't be here today. They forgot to ask those who matter most: the Maine people.

    Pundits and pollsters don't determine why a person should be Governor. The people do.

    For four years, we have been taking our message directly to the people of Maine. We let our actions speak for themselves.

    That's what the people want: action. They are so tired of politicians preaching to the people and not listening to the people. They promise one thing, then do another.

    That's not who we are.

    We said we were going to pay the hospitals, and we did. We paid hospitals $750 million in welfare debt.

    We said we were going to lower taxes, and we did. We passed the largest tax cut in Maine's history.

    We said we were going to help private businesses create jobs, and we did. State government is no longer an adversary against business, but a partner with the private sector.

    We made Maine "Open for Business."

    Private-sector companies have created more than 20,000 jobs. And there are almost 7,000 jobs at the CareerCenter that still need to be filled.

    If you want a job, you can get it. But our work is far from complete!

    WELFARE REFORM Most importantly, we said we were going to reform welfare, and we are.

    So far, we have cut the welfare rolls in half. We stopped the growth of Medicaid.

    We went after fraud and abuse. We put photos on EBT cards. We put more money toward nursing homes.

    We are using the savings from our welfare reforms to take care of our elderly, disabled and mentally ill.

    We are transitioning people off welfare and into productive jobs. The Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and Veterans Services have teamed up to create an innovative program called "Welfare to Work."

    More than 1,200 Mainers who were on welfare are now working full-time.

    No more welfare handouts.

    We will give them skills, training and jobs. We want them to know prosperity, not poverty.

    We are making progress in reforming our welfare system. But we are just getting started.

    MAKING MAINE COMPETTIVE The people of Maine told us they want us to keep reforming government. They want better jobs.

    They want welfare reform. They want lower energy costs. They want lower taxes.

    They want good roads and bridges, and they want a smaller, more affordable government.

    Mainers work hard. They have common sense. They know what it means to pay the bills. They want their piece of the American Dream.

    We won't rest until every man, woman and child in Maine gets their chance to achieve prosperity, not poverty.

    Mainers deserve career jobs with higher pay and good benefits. We must attract new business to Maine and help our existing companies to grow and expand.

    We don't have to reinvent the wheel. Other states are growing and expanding. We can do what they are doing. We can make Maine competitive.

    TAX REFORM States with the fastest growth have the lowest tax burdens and the lowest energy costs. That's not a coincidence.

    We need good-paying jobs that encourage young people and families to stay in Maine. To create these jobs, Maine must be competitive with other states.

    Companies want to come to low-tax states, and so do young families. Once they get here, we must keep them here. We want families, retirees and wealthy residents to stay in Maine.

    We lose them to other states because we tax them too much. When we lower the income tax burden-and we will-we put money back in your pocket. You earned it, you should keep it.

    My long-term vision is a Maine without any income tax. We will start by getting rid of the estate tax and income tax on pensions.

    Small Maine companies cannot afford to transfer the business to the family because the estate taxes are so high. Small, family-owned businesses are the backbone of our economy.

    We must keep our small businesses alive and well. We must keep our families in Maine.

    We must also keep our retirees in Maine. Too many Maine retirees have moved to other states to avoid our high taxes. Let's work together to keep them here. More importantly, let's work together to keep their assets here as well.

    ENERGY COSTS Business owners from all over the state tell me the same thing: energy costs are too high.

    If you think your household electric bill is high, just imagine how much it costs to build a destroyer at BIW or make paper at a mill in Hinckley.

    Lower energy costs are absolutely critical to attracting major employers, manufacturers and high-tech industries. We're off to a good start.

    We brought natural gas infrastructure to Maine. But we need an adequate supply of natural gas.

    Massachusetts now has a governor who wants to work with us. We are already talking with him about increasing natural gas supply to our region.

    We need it here as soon as possible so we can help all Mainers.

    We need a Public Utilities Commission that concentrates on affordable energy for all Mainers, not just rich, subsidized investors and environmentalists.

    I am open to any form of energy that lowers the cost of electricity. But we can't wait 15 or 20 years. We need affordable energy, and we need it now.

    We must lift the 100 megawatt cap on all energy sources. We must lower the costs of heating our homes and our businesses. Our rebates and loan programs are driving down heating costs.

    But we need to allow open competition.

    Nearly 10,000 heat pumps have been installed in Maine. That saves on heating costs and improves energy efficiency. It puts money back in your pockets.

    Businesses want lower energy costs, and homeowners need lower heating costs.

    Let's give the people what they want.

    REDUCING THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT The people of Maine want an affordable, innovative and flexible government. The size and cost of state government should support-not burden-hard-working families.

    We have started to right-size government, but there is still more to do. It is time to eliminate obsolete regulations and poor customer service.

    You, the Maine people, are the customers, and state employees are your public servants.

    We must have a cost-effective and efficient government that is responsive to the needs of our citizens and our businesses.

    A government that is too big and too expensive takes resources away from Mainers and discourages job creation.

    We need to be bold. We need to think outside of Maine's traditional model of government.

    Mainers are tired of paying for a government that doesn't deliver quality services or competitive schools.

    We have made progress on the state level. We have taken the politics out of improving infrastructure. Projects are now prioritized by professionals, not politicians.

    Infrastructure projects that speed economic development or help businesses get goods to market are the highest priority. Projects based on political promises get left by the roadside.

    It's time to do this at all levels of government. Yes, we must work together, but we must work smarter.

    Efforts to consolidate jails in Maine have failed. The attempt to consolidate our schools has failed.

    School budgets are rising every year. Maine has twice the number of administrators as the national average. But student enrollment continues to drop-and so does their competitiveness in the fast-growing technical world.

    School administrators take home six-digit salaries, while our teachers dig into their own pockets to buy classroom supplies. That's just simply wrong.

    Our education system is upside down. It has two winners and two losers. Administrators and union bosses are the winners. The two big losers are teachers and our students.

    We must get our education budgets under control. We must put the money where it belongs: in the classroom. If we really want achieve the state's mandate to pay 55 percent of local school costs, we could initiate a statewide teachers' contract.

    We must also get our local budgets under control. Total spending on local government has increased by half-a-billion dollars over the past five years, during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

    This kind of spending is unacceptable. Mainers cannot afford it. Municipalities blame cuts at the state level, but they ignore that they are duplicating services. This has to stop.

    Cities, towns and counties must work together to provide key services. Local control is great, but no one wants to pay for it. We will never be competitive until we learn to share services by working together.

    It can be done. In Washington County, 18 municipalities have created a shared EMS system. This regional service has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    In Waldo County, several communities have contracted with the City of Belfast to provide fire protection.

    State government should reward these efforts. The state should be helping these communities to reduce cost without decreasing services. If we want to improve services and reduce costs, we must have the courage to work together and do it right.

    KEEPING MAINERS SAFE Mainers deserve to be kept safe. We will focus on fighting drug crimes. Unlike the 126th Legislature, the 127th must prevent young Mainers from getting addicted. We must make sure no more babies are born addicted to drugs. We must focus on the drug epidemic.

    We will continue to raise awareness and campaign against domestic violence.

    Whether it comes from national sports stars or the streets of Maine, there is no excuse for domestic violence.

    Men must step up and speak out against this heinous crime that traumatizes women, children and families.

    When it comes to keeping Mainers safe, we can't move fast enough.

    To the Maine people, we say this: we listened to you, and we hear your concerns.

    We just hope the legislature is also listening to you. The election sent us all a clear message: Mainers want action.

    We must work together. My door is always open to anyone-anyone-who brings innovative solutions that will help move Maine forward.

    But be warned. I am not here to play political games. We are here to work-to work hard for the people of Maine. We are here to bring prosperity, not poverty.

    Actions speak louder than words. Let's get to work.

    Thank you.
  5. Chief Justice Saufley, members of the 126th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

    Tonight, I am here to update you, the people of Maine, about the condition of our great state.

    First, I must recognize a few individuals. To my lovely wife Ann and children-please stand-I would not be here tonight without you. Ann, you have made Maine proud as our First Lady.

    Staff Sergeant Douglas Connolly, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

    As we thank our men and women in uniform, we are reminded of those who are not with us. Bill Knight greeted thousands of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at Bangor International Airport.

    A World War II veteran, Bill was part of the Greatest Generation. He died on Christmas Day at age 91. He made greeting the troops his life's most important duty.

    Another veteran who is not here tonight is someone many in this chamber know and respect. Michael Cianchette, who was my chief legal counsel, is now deployed to Afghanistan.

    Mike is truly one of Maine's best and brightest, and we send him our best wishes for a safe return home. Mike's lovely wife, Michelle, is here with us tonight. Michelle, please stand.

    Our administration is working hard so young Mainers like Mike and Michelle can continue to live and work in our state. We want our young families to enjoy a growing economy that allows them to prosper and succeed.

    Mainers are a breed apart. Many of us value our individuality. We work hard. We take care of each other.

    I love my state. I am proud to call myself a Mainer. I want every Mainer to succeed and prosper. But Maine is at a crossroads. We have huge challenges.

    Higher taxes and bloated government have not improved our lives. Higher energy costs have not attracted major investments to Maine. More welfare has not led to prosperity. It has not broken the cycle of generational poverty.

    We cannot return to the same failed policies of the past 40 years. We are better than that. We must be bold. We must have the courage to make the tough decisions.

    We can do better. We will do better.

    JOBS/ECONOMY

    We must keep our young people in Maine. Recently, I asked some Bowdoin College students, "What can we do to keep you here?" One of them was Grégoire Faucher from Madawaska. He is eager to hear what the future of Maine holds for him. Comment ça va, Gregoire? Ca me fait plasir de vous avoir ici ce soir.

    Unfortunately, Gregoire hears more about job prospects in Boston or New York or even New Hampshire than right here in Maine. He wants to stay in Maine. But he may have to leave to find higher-paying jobs and better opportunities.

    Greg and his classmates are the kind of young people we need to grow our state's economy. We must create a business climate that encourages investment that will employ Maine people.

    Recruiting job creators to come to Maine is not easy. The global competition is fierce. Investment capital goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is appreciated.

    As Winston Churchill said: "Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon."

    Since we took office, we have made Maine more competitive. Maine's unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2%. It's the lowest since 2008. Almost 13,000 new private-sector jobs have been created since we took office.

    • We reduced bureaucratic red tape. • We cut the automatic increase to the gas tax. • We eliminated almost $2 billion in pension debt. • We right-sized government. • We found efficiencies within state agencies.

    My proudest achievement: paying $750 million in welfare debt to Maine's hospitals. It sent the message that, in Maine, we pay our bills.

    Because of our efforts, good-paying jobs are being created all over the state.

    • In Portland, the Eimskip shipping service. • In Wilton, Barclaycards. • In Brunswick, Tempus Jets. • In Nashville Plantation, Irving Forest Products.

    More jobs have been added at such world-class companies as:

    • Maine Wood Concepts in New Vineyard. • Molnlycke Health Care in Wiscasset. • Hinckley Yachts in Trenton. We are a state of entrepreneurial "doers." There are 40,000 small businesses in Maine. Our state has roughly 130,000 microbusinesses. They employ 170,000 people. They drive our economy. If they could each add one more job, that would transform our economy.

    Nicole Snow of Sebec is a very successful micro-entrepreneur. She created Darn Good Yarn, and she does all of her business online. Nicole is growing her company into a million-dollar business-thanks to the internet. Nicole, please stand.

    Having spent my career in business, I know what grows an economy. But there is a major push by many in this chamber to maintain the status quo.

    Liberal politicians are taking us down a dangerous path-a path that is unsustainable. They want a massive expansion of Maine's welfare state. Expanded welfare does not break the cycle of generational poverty. It breaks the budget.

    In 1935 during the height of the Great Depression, FDR-the father of the New Deal-warned against welfare dependency. He said: "To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit … The federal government must and shall quit this business of relief."

    Big, expensive welfare programs riddled with fraud and abuse threaten our future. Too many Mainers are dependent on government handouts.

    Government dependency has not-and never will-create prosperity.

    MEDICAID EXPANSION

    Maine expanded welfare over a decade ago. Now MaineCare alone is consuming 25 percent of our General Fund dollars. The result?

    We are taking money away from:

    • Mental health services • Nursing homes • Job training • Education • Roads • Law enforcement • Natural resources

    Maine's welfare expansion resulted in 750 million dollars of hospital debt. We just paid it off. Some want to repeat that mistake.

    Look at the facts. Welfare expansion will cost Mainers at least $800 million over the next decade. It will cost Maine taxpayers over $150 million in the next three years. Maine's current welfare system is failing:

    • Our children • Our elderly • Our disabled • Our mentally ill

    Thousands of our most vulnerable citizens are on waitlists for services. They need your compassion.

    Michael Levasseur of Carmel has autism and needs care 24/7. Michael is here tonight with his parents, Cynthia and Paul. Cynthia had to quit her job to care for her son, and they had to downsize their house to make ends meet.

    With services, Michael could get a job coach, assisted-living accommodations and participate in a day program. Maine lawmakers must address these waiting lists. Michael deserves your compassion.

    We must set priorities on who will get services with our limited resources. Money may grow on trees in Washington, D.C., but we cannot count on promises of federal windfalls to pay for our services.

    Let's be clear. Maine will not get 100 percent federal funding for welfare expansion. Maine already expanded. That means the federal government would give us less money than other states that are expanding now.

    Adding another hundred thousand people to our broken welfare system is insanity. It is unaffordable. It is fiscally irresponsible. Expanding welfare is a bad deal for working Mainers who have to foot the bill.

    Liberals believe that giving free health care to able-bodied adults, while leaving our most vulnerable in the cold, is compassionate. I disagree.

    We must show compassion for all Maine people. We must protect our hard-working families from the higher insurance premiums and higher taxes that will result from further expansion. Do not focus on the next election. You must focus on the next generation.

    WELFARE REFORM

    We owe the next generation a society that provides them with prosperity and opportunity, not welfare and entitlements.

    I will not tolerate the abuse of welfare benefits. Maine's limited resources must be reserved for the truly needy. Maine EBT cards provide cash for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This cash is supposed to purchase household items for needy children.

    Every dollar that goes to buy cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets is a dollar taken away from a needy child, family or others who need services.

    My proposal will prohibit TANF funds from being used for alcohol, tobacco, gambling and other adult entertainment. We will limit the use of Maine EBT cards to Maine-not Hawaii, not Florida.

    If you want to ask the taxpayers for money, you should make a good-faith effort to get a job first. We will require those seeking welfare, if able, to look for a job before applying for TANF benefits.

    Maine taxpayers are being punished because our welfare program far exceeds the federal guidelines. Maine has been so lenient with its work exemptions, the federal government has fined us millions of dollars in penalties. We must eliminate exemptions that excuse TANF recipients from work.

    There is no excuse for able-bodied adults to spend a lifetime on welfare at the expense of hard-working, struggling Mainers. That is not what I call compassion. As John F. Kennedy said in 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." These are words that still ring true today.

    EDUCATION

    I know generational poverty. But I escaped generational poverty, and lived the American Dream. Some caring Maine families took me in from the streets of Lewiston and gave me the guidance I needed to succeed.

    I have said it many times. Education saved my life. Throwing money at poverty will not end poverty. Education and mentoring will end poverty.

    Our bridge year programs are providing educational opportunities for Maine students. The Business Academy in Biddeford recently presented 33 students with a total of 126 college credits. We saved these students thousands of dollars in college tuition.

    In Fort Kent, 17 students have completed their freshman year at college upon graduating high school.

    This spring, students in Hermon will graduate high school with diplomas and technical proficiencies and trade licenses. Many lawmakers, the union and school superintendents have opposed our reforms at every step. But I vow to always put our students and our teachers first.

    INFRASTRUCTURE

    To strengthen Maine's economy, we must invest our resources to improve infrastructure, reduce taxes and lower energy costs for homeowners and businesses. Industry needs infrastructure to move goods and services at the speed of business.

    Over the next three years, MaineDOT will invest over $2 billion in infrastructure improvements.

    We will repair or replace 54 bridges and reconstruct hundreds of miles of state roads. We will improve our ports, rail, airports and transit infrastructure. The plan supports over 25,000 jobs in highway and bridge projects. Thousands more jobs will be supported by the plan's investments in ports, rail, ferries and buses. That's putting Maine to work.

    ENERGY

    But we still face barriers that make Maine less competitive. Heating and electricity costs remain a major obstacle.

    Our homeowners spend well over $3,000 a year to heat their homes. That's nearly double the national average. Maine families know that this winter has been more challenging than most.

    Distribution of natural gas expanded this year in Southern and Central Maine. Mainers are saving more than a thousand dollars a year by converting to natural gas.

    More funding is now available to help Mainers convert to more affordable heating systems. These systems include wood pellets, advanced oil systems, natural gas systems, energy efficiency improvements, heat pumps - anything that will cut costs for Maine homes.

    High electricity costs make it very difficult to attract business. My administration is working to expand pipeline capacity from Pennsylvania to take full advantage of the natural gas supplies in that state.

    Also, our neighbors in Quebec have the best clean-energy resources on the planet. My Administration is fighting for access to this cost-effective and clean source of electricity along with the rest of New England.

    Many lawmakers have chosen to support powerful special interest groups over the needs of Maine's ratepayers. Let's be clear. I do not favor one form of energy over another. I am on the side of those who want to lower the costs for working Maine families. Whose side are you on?

    "OPEN FOR BUSINESS ZONES"

    Tonight I am proposing a bold new idea to attract companies that will invest more than $50 million and create more than 1,500 jobs.

    My proposal will offer valuable incentives for companies that choose to locate in certain areas. They are called "Open for Business Zones."

    "Open for Business Zones" will offer discounted electricity rates; employment tax benefits; and provide access to capital.

    Companies in these zones will get assistance to help recruit and train workers.

    Employees in these zones will not be forced to join labor unions. They will not be forced to pay dues or fees to labor unions. This will allow Maine to compete with right-to-work states.

    Companies in these zones must show preference to Maine workers, companies and bidders.

    Our proposal combines the kinds of incentives that other states have used successfully to attract major investment. We must be able to compete with them. We must be bold.

    We must show young people like Gregoire that we are serious about providing good-paying jobs and opportunities for him and his classmates.

    TAX REFORM

    States with the highest economic growth often have the lowest overall tax burdens.

    We are working hard to combat Maine's reputation as a high-tax state. We passed the largest tax cut in Maine's history. Two-thirds of Maine taxpayers will get income-tax relief. Liberals call it a "tax break for the rich." But 70,000 low-income Mainers will no longer pay income tax.

    We cut taxes for the working poor. This is compassion. We put money in people's pockets. We told the business community we are serious about tax reform. I am proud of the progress we made. But we need to do more.

    Our tax system is out of date. It is not competitive with other states. So let's ask Mainers in a statewide referendum if they want to lower taxes.

    We must lower our income tax rates and eliminate the estate tax to bring Maine's tax system into the 21st century. This would make Maine more attractive for people to work and raise their families here. It would encourage retirees to stay in Maine.

    This will protect our working-class families from bearing an unfair tax burden.

    My proposal also includes a limit on the growth of state spending. This will provide much-needed relief to Maine's taxpayers.

    Let's stop arguing about tax reform. Let's ask the people who really matter. Let's ask Maine's hardworking taxpayers. We will ask Mainers a simple question at a statewide referendum. We will ask if they want to lower taxes by at least $100 million and reduce state spending by at least $100 million.

    We think Mainers want tax relief. Let's give them the option to decide.

    ADRRESSING MAINE'S DRUG PROBLEM

    Finally, we must confront a troubling epidemic. It is tearing at the social fabric of our communities. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.

    927 drug-addicted babies were born last year in Maine. That's more than 7 percent of all births.

    Each baby addicted to drugs creates a lifelong challenge for our health care system, schools and social services. The average cost for drug-addicted births in 2009 was $53,000. Welfare programs covered nearly 80 percent of those increased charges.

    More important than cost are the effects to these innocent children. I am deeply concerned about the suffering and long-term consequences these newborns are subject to. It is unacceptable to me that a baby should be born affected by drugs.

    We must show them our compassion.

    There were 163 drug-induced deaths in Maine in 2012. The use of heroin is increasing. Four times as many people died from a heroin overdose in 2012 than in 2011.

    Over 20 percent of the homicides in 2012 were related to illegal drugs. We must address the problem of drug addiction and drug trafficking. We must act now.

    We need to fully fund the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Our police chiefs tell us local law enforcement officials need more resources to fight the drug problem in our state. Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell is the president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. He is here tonight to show that the chiefs fully support our administration's war on Maine's drug problem. I am pleased the county sheriffs also enthusiastically support our initiative.

    As Henry Ford said: "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." The judicial, executive and legislative branches joined forces in an effort to eradicate domestic violence from our state. We need to come together once again to combat Maine's drug problem.

    My proposal adds four new special drug prosecutors and four new judges to sit in enhanced drug courts in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston and Portland.

    Since local agencies do not have the manpower or resources they need to fight Maine's drug problem, we will add 14 MDEA agent positions.

    We must hunt down dealers and get them off the streets. We must protect our citizens from drug-related crimes and violence. We must save our babies from lifelong suffering.

    CONCLUSION

    In closing, I welcome common-sense solutions from anyone who wants to put Maine on the right path. Success doesn't happen by doing nothing.

    Bring me bold solutions. Put your politics aside. Fight for the future of Maine's children. We must show them the path to succeed.

    God Bless Maine and God Bless America. Now, let's get to work.

    *Speech as prepared