Chief Justice Saufley, President Alfond, Speaker Eves, 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 and thank a few individuals. To my wife Ann, Ann please stand, 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, your unwavering support, and all you continue to do throughout my life’s journey.
Staff Sergeant Justin Middleton, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.
Members of our military and veterans that are here tonight, please stand.
We salute you and extend our sincerest appreciation to each and every one of you for your service in keeping a safe and free people.
In the balcony, you’ll notice an empty chair next to our uniformed service members.
This chair represents every Mainer who is serving overseas, in harm’s way, so we can be here tonight and exercise our freedom to assemble and our freedom to speak.
I ask that we all take a moment to remember, recognize and thank our men and women in uniform.
Recently, Ann and I had the opportunity to go down to Arlington National Cemetery during the Wreaths Across America trip.
As I walked through rows and rows of tombstones, marking the final resting place of our fallen American heroes, I remembered one simple truth: These individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure future generations had the opportunity to pursue their piece of the American Dream. It is a dream we cherish and the freedom that marks our lives is so rare for the rest of the world. The American experience represents a unique moment in time. We must not abandon it!
If each and every one of our elected officials visited Arlington, they might realize the political battles we wage are meaningless in comparison to the blood that’s been shed to protect our American Dream. We all recognize that the political climate in Washington D.C. is toxic. With no solutions in sight, the Federal debt grows at such a pace that many of us question how the American Dream will ultimately survive for our children and grandchildren to experience. We owe it to each and every one of our fallen heroes, as elected officials, to come together and develop solutions to our challenges. We must commit to make our state a better place to live and raise our families.
There is no more important thing in most of our lives than our families.
Maine families are struggling. With a median household income of just under $48,000, Maine families survive on far less money than those in other states.
Maine families struggle to heat their homes, fill their cars with gasoline, put food on the table, and pay for health insurance.
Government has not strengthened Maine families with more income, opportunity, or reducing the cost of living. Instead government has taken more and more of our family’s hard working income away to serve some people’s political and/or financial self interests.
The path forward offers two choices. We continue to accept the status quo or we can make the tough decisions to create a better Maine for everyone.
We can only do this if we work together. Every Mainer deserves the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
Last session, we took steps to improve our economy. We provided Mainers the largest tax cut in history in a bipartisan effort.
Despite rhetoric to the contrary: 70,000 working Maine families no longer pay state income tax.
Two thirds of all taxpayers are receiving tax relief, easing the burden on middle class Maine families.
The average Maine family is receiving a $300 tax decrease. A 28% reduction in their state income tax.
We also reduced taxes for Maine’s job creators. A critical step to attracting investment in Maine.
Unfortunately, there are those who would like to undo these modest reforms– despite having voted for them.
Now is not the time to rollback these monumental reforms. High taxes come at a high cost: the erosion of our state’s economic competitiveness.
President John F. Kennedy had it right: “An economy constrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs or enough profits.”
Tax cuts were not the only accomplishment of the last session.
Together, we eliminated $1.7 billion, 41% of the existing shortfall in Maine’s pension system, without cutting retiree benefits.
Maine families now have more choices when purchasing health insurance. Over 17% of Maine’s small businesses received a decrease in their rates last year.
With LD 1, we reduced red tape, and improved our permitting process for businesses.
Maine hospitals are now paid in real time for the services they provide.
Principled job creators know that my administration wants to help, and my door is always open.
You want to create a job; I want to be there to help.
However, let me be clear, I am not interested in helping those who increase the cost of living on Maine people for personal financial gain.
We passed legislation to strengthen vocational education. This will ensure that Maine students who work with their hands have more opportunities to learn valuable skills and gain good paying careers.
We passed legislation to hold teachers and principals more accountable through performance evaluations.
Unemployment is down in Maine, lower than the national average.
We are focusing our efforts on branding the State of Maine, recognizing that Maine made products embody quality and value.
Government is becoming more transparent. We exposed the wasteful use of Mainers tax dollars at agencies such as the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine State Housing Authority.
We not only exposed it – we cleaned it up. We have more to do!
I am pleased to announce that in the coming days we will launch a new website that will enable Mainer’s to see how their precious tax dollars are spent.
We placed renewed interest in our natural resource economy. Farming, fishing and forestry continue to be top priorities for moving Maine forward.
My administration also launched a “Business Friendly Communities” initiative. The program works with our towns and cities to make them “Open for Business.” Eighteen Maine communities are now designated as business-friendly.
These reforms are a small step in making Maine a better place to live and raise our families. There is so much work left to do. Once again, Forbes ranks Maine dead last in the nation when it comes to being business friendly.
We can disagree with Forbes analysis; however, America’s job creators listen to them. Denial or sticking our heads in the sand will not change the reality.
We must put ideologies aside and get to work to make Maine a competitive and prosperous state.
I have spoken with a lot of Maine families and businesses in the past three years.
They desperately want more opportunities, better paying jobs, and a lower cost of living.
I spent most of my career in business creating jobs for hard working Mainers. I know what it takes to expand and create jobs. Maine’s cost of doing business is simply too high.
For example, Alabama, South Carolina, Indiana, and Texas are attracting huge investments by companies, providing higher paying jobs for their residents, without exorbitant taxpayer subsidies.
Why shouldn’t Maine people benefit from the same economic opportunity?
Remember one simple truth: “Capital investment goes where it is welcomed – and stays where it is appreciated.”