AUGUSTA — Gov. James B. Longley told lawmakers he hoped he would be more mature and wiser in his second year in office.

Gov. John McKernan admitted to learning a lot in his first year as chief executive.

Gov. Angus King declared that “we are living in revolutionary times.”

From 1976 through 2004, five Maine governors have addressed lawmakers to recount the accomplishments of their first year and to set the agenda for the second. Some used humor; others talked about world and national events. All of them promised to make Maine a more vibrant state.

Gov. Paul LePage will deliver his first State of the State address at 7 tonight in the House chamber. With his tendency to go off-script and an eye toward an ambitious agenda, LePage will command center stage with his evening address.

Highlights from his predecessors show a variety of approaches as unique as the men who delivered the speeches.

Gov. James B. Longley

Jan. 19, 1976

Longley, the state’s first independent governor, began his speech with a blunt assessment of himself.

“I hope I am a more mature, wiser governor than when I assumed office a year ago,” he said.

Longley, first elected in 1974, was speaking to a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. He said what may have seemed like controversy in his first year were efforts by both parties and an independent governor to figure out how best to work together.

Longley was propelled to statewide significance in the early 1970s when he served as chairman of a cost-cutting commission. He continued to talk about the size and cost of government throughout his speech. Much of what he said more than 30 years ago is reminiscent of recent speeches by LePage.

“We must stop holding out false hopes and stop building dreams that turn into further nightmares,” he said. “We must stop misleading people into believing that government can give more than it takes.”

He left the Legislature with four goals, including a call to create a “corporation of Maine people” to emphasize the need for fiscal responsibility and to avoid increasing taxes. He also called for a fix to the school funding formula and wanted a raise for state workers.

“Finally, I would hope that you would agree with me that it is deceitful to lead people to believe government can be all things to all people; because when we try to be all things to all people, we end up being less things to most people,” he said.

Gov. Joseph E. Brennan

Jan. 2, 1980

Brennan, a Democrat, began his speech with a global perspective — and a call for a better decade ahead.

“We have survived a decade devastated by Vietnam, Watergate and, more recently, the insatiable greed of the OPEC nations, a decade that has drained the public’s confidence and its institutions, a decade when many lost faith in our national purpose, and a decade in which our collective pride has been diminished,” he said.

Brennan, who was attorney general and a legislator before being elected governor, then laid out four major policy areas he wanted to address.

First was agriculture. Brennan said he wanted to establish a state policy of preserving land, create a department to help farmers with financing and allocate $300,000 to promote industrial development.

Second, he called for continued energy conservation and set a goal of “weatherization of every Maine home during the course of the next 10 years.”

Third, he called for bills to protect the environment, including a board to oversee pesticide use.

“We in Maine are fond of pointing to our magnificent wilderness, our clean air, pure water and blue skies as our greatest attractions,” he said. “But, as you know, the sad truth is that in some parts of Maine, for decades the air has not been so clean, the water has not been so pure and the sky has not been so blue.”

Fourth, he proposed the creation of the Department of Corrections and proposed to spend $1.5 million to improve to state prisons.

John R. McKernan Jr.

Jan. 12, 1988

“I’ve learned much in the past year, and I’ve been reminded that the mark of a truly educated man is that he can talk for hours on any subject … and doesn’t,” McKernan said at the beginning of his speech.

McKernan, a Republican, talked about his efforts to continue to meet with citizens through his Capitol for a Day program, which LePage revived last year by. McKernan said he saw signs of “growth and prosperity” in southern Maine but noted that other parts of the state were seeing plant closings, layoffs or strikes.

His first goal for the new year focused on child care. He proposed a $3.5 million child care initiative.

“In 1988, we must realize that child care is everyone’s business,” he said. “It is a family concern – an oftentimes emotional and difficult one.”

He also promised additional money to lower property taxes, funds for at-home care for the elderly, a retraining program for displaced workers, a comprehensive program to address AIDS, and welfare reform. “It is a proposal that views welfare not as a dead end but as a road to independence,” he said.

His plan required those who receive welfare to agree to go back to school or participate in a job training program. Because of reduced federal funding, McKernan proposed a 5 cent increase in the gas tax to pay for road improvements.

“We still have distances to cover, and barriers to overcome, but in 1988, we are in a position to achieve new heights for Maine and its people,” he said.

Angus S. King Jr.

Jan. 23, 1996

King, the state’s second independent governor, started his first State of the State address with a bold statement.

“We are living in revolutionary times,” he said. “I believe that we are in the middle of the greatest change in the way people work and organize their lives since the Industrial Revolution. The revolution I speak of is the globalization of the economy.”

King said Maine was well positioned to take advantage of the new economy, but that competition would be fierce. He wanted to focus on education as the key to the state’s future prosperity.

“The days when a strong back was all you needed to get a good job are long gone, and more and more over the next dozen years decisions about where companies locate and grow will depend upon the quality of local education,” he said.

To that end, King said, he wanted better educational standards, money to train teachers, consolidation of administrative functions, and Internet access in all schools.

To promote business growth, King launched the Plus One campaign, which encouraged each existing Maine business to add one employee. He said the Department of Environmental Protection would allow businesses to come forward if they have a violation without fearing retaliation from the state.

King ended his speech by saying that politics in Maine, when compared to the national stage, were like “Ozzie and Harriet.”

“We’re sometimes opponents but never enemies,” he said. “We differ on the means but rarely the ends; and we’re grateful to you, the people of Maine, for giving us this extraordinary opportunity.”

John E. Baldacci

Jan. 20, 2004

Just eight years ago, Baldacci, a Democrat, promised to make Maine the envy of all other states by expanding King’s laptop program to high schools and letting parents use the technology.

“Maine is poised to develop an entire generation with one of the most marketable skills in the world,” he said. “In the process, we’re becoming the envy of every other state in the nation.”

He expressed hope that the new year would bring more jobs, but said the state’s high tax burden continued to be a problem.

He also announced a goal of raising Maine’s high school-to-college rate from 55 percent to 70 percent by the end of the decade. “This will take Maine from the middle of the pack to among the best in the nation in college attainment,” he said.

Baldacci ended his speech with a tribute to the men and women in the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He announced a new tax form checkoff to create a relief fund for families of National Guard members and reservists who are on active duty.

“Providing for the common good, making people feel secure in their communities and homes, this is the central job of government,” he said. “It’s why all of us are here serving our state and our people.”

Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]

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