AUGUSTA — 2012 can be a year of promise that moves the Maine economy forward, or it can be an election year full of political rhetoric and impasse, Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday in his final weekly radio address of 2011.

Wrapping up his inaugural year in office, LePage said he prefers the first choice in a year that brings fiscal challenges which the federal government can’t solve.

LePage said the state moved forward in 2011 with a budget that addressed a huge shortfall and reduced an unfunded liability in the state pension system. He said health-care insurance laws were overhauled, red tape snipped from government regulations, school funding was increased and the largest tax cut in state history was enacted.

But LePage said more needs to be done to address continuing fiscal challenges, including overspending within the Medicaid program. He has proposed deep cuts in Medicaid to avert running out of money for the program. His proposals could affect 65,000 Mainers getting benefits.

“So, as the New Year approaches, let us ask ourselves what we would like from Augusta — real solutions or rhetoric? It’s up to Maine citizens. Demand more from your elected officials and insist they perform and keep your best interest in mind,” LePage said.

In the Democratic response, Rep. Emily Ann Cain of Orono gives a less-than-glowing appraisal of the Republican’s first year as governor. Since his order to remove labor-themed murals from state offices in March, Cain said, the state has lost thousands of jobs. The House Democratic leader also questioned LePage’s commitment to environmental protection and health care, and his vision for long-term economic development.

“Next week, state lawmakers will return to work in the Legislature. Democrats will continue to push the governor and Republican leadership to focus on real solutions that put Maine people back to work and get our economy going again,” Cain promised.

Cain said Democrats will take a tough stand against “extreme proposals” advanced by the governor and leaders of the majority Republicans.

“We will be asking the tough questions. We will keep our focus on improving the economy and growing the middle class in Maine. We won’t just be managing today’s crisis, but leading towards tomorrow’s opportunities,” Cain said.

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