My vision for Maine is one that brings a more prosperous tomorrow to my fellow citizens. And by looking back at our past we can learn how to better shape our future.
Hi. This is Governor Paul LePage.
The fiscal well-being of our State is critically important to our road to recovery. Currently, members of the Appropriations Committee are working to solve a massive financial shortfall within the Department of Health and Human Services.
The $220 million dollar deficit is not a simple problem to solve, but I have provided a common sense approach that will redesign our welfare program to a state of sustainability.
As highlighted in my State of the State Address my administration did not create this problem nor did we invent it. Many of our legislators did not create this problem, nor did they invent it. But regardless of who is responsible, we must fix it.
Our plan is reasonable and responsible in that it allows the system to protect our most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, we no longer can be all things to all people. As the welfare program has grown our revenue has not, and the simple truth is we are spending money we don't have. By eliminating services to 19 and 20 year olds and those who do not have disabilities or children we strengthen the safety net for our most needy.
By reducing eligibility to the federal standard for optional services we maintain an affordable safety net that will serve more than 280,000 Maine people.
But we must not delay in taking action. And I am cautiously optimistic Appropriations Committee members are working toward a solution by February 1.
As Democrats reflected on the State of the State speech bonding was brought up.
While it's true we have a real need for transportation improvements and bonding would create short-term construction jobs, we must first get our fiscal house in order. Bridges and roads are essential to a healthy economy, but we can't talk about borrowing more money until we have a plan to pay our current bills.
As I outlined Tuesday, energy and education will be the catalysts to job creation.
Mainers earn some of the lowest wages in the country and hard working families deserve more money in their pockets. We have great potential to increase the per capita income, but to do that our high energy costs must be addressed. Next month, you will hear about an energy proposal that will lower electricity rates for Maine residents and businesses. Not only does our high electricity cost have an effect on the economy and our job creators, but it also hurts Maine families.
In addition to our plan, you'll hear more about the Administration's support to encourage expanded investments in alternative sources of energy and efficiency. I also support all forms of renewable energy including hydropower. We must remove the 100 megawatt restriction on this renewable green energy.
We have the ability to accept a balanced approach that will benefit our environment and economy -- and we must -- as we look to our future.
Our youngest generation is our future and a strong education system will lead them on the path toward success. Education Commissioner Steve Bowen and I believe the best way to shape a student is to offer real choices -- choices that inspire our students and encourage them to succeed. For too long, we have quarantined our students in a system that doesn't work for everybody. That's not to say public education is not a valuable resource, because it is -- for some. By expanding learning options for students and making use of every educational resource we can better prepare our children for the 21st century.
It's important our teachers have the tools they need to succeed as well. Therefore, it's crucial they understand the expectations of effective educators. We must empower our teachers with ongoing support and meaningful feedback. Research proves that the school-based factor with the biggest impact on student learning is the effectiveness of a teacher. Commissioner Bowen is working on a set of standards of effective practice for our teacher and principal evaluation systems, and soon we will release all the details.
In closing, I will tell you this, if we choose to set politics aside for the greater good we will be able to work on sensible solutions for all Mainers.
As your Governor it is a privilege to lead our great State. It is a privilege to share a vision with you and I thank you for listening.
Ann and I hope you have a most enjoyable weekend. Take care.