Maine's Finanicial Operations & New Initiatives Help Position Maine well in Global Economy

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 In October of ‘05 Alan Caron of Grow Smart and Gov. Baldacci look on while Bruce Katz ,from the Brookings Institute, announced their plans to visit Maine communities gathering information for a major report, which is now being used by the state.

Maine’s "positive financial operations" and new initiatives help position state well in global economy

Editorial by Ramona du Houx

In May Standard and Poor’s, one of the premier financial rating companies in the world, raised Maine’s credit score.

Imagine if your credit rating increased. At the very least you’d breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you have positively tackled handling your finances.

No doubt there would have been difficult decisions over the years, and challenges to how best invest hard-earned savings and manage debts. All families, all businesses want to make the right decisions for their futures. Balancing finances requires finesse, discipline, determination and a vision of where you are going. Much is the same with state government with the right leadership.

Raising Maine’s credit score is important for the future of economic growth in the state. Companies looking to invest or expand in the state will have more confidence in Maine when they make their decisions. A good credit score makes Maine more attractive for business.

"We expect that the state’s prudent financial and debt management practices will continue to lead to positive financial operations and a long-term structural budget balance," said the report’s analyst.

What that means is that the Baldacci administration, working with the Legislature, has rebuilt the state’s reserves, controlled budget growth, and lowered debt, all the while continuing to invest in policies and programs that help the state grow, while supporting the needs of Mainers.

"All the hard work and tough budget decisions we have made during the past four years are beginning to pay dividends," said Governor Baldacci. When the governor was elected in 2002, Maine faced a $1.2 billion budget gap, with no reserves — none. Now the reserves are at $150 million.

Recognizing the merits of the Brookings Institution report, which advised the state on how to balance growth, changing government policies and practices, while maintaining Maine’s quality of life, Baldacci has taken action. Some recommendations in the report were already under way; some needed addressing. The budget that just passed incorporated many of those policies in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way.

In an unprecedented measure, Speaker of the House Glen Cummings gathered top members of both parties together for daily morning meetings. No one I’ve talked to remembers any other House Speaker working in this manner, especially when the House has a wide margin of Democrats. "It’s the responsibility of leadership to bring everyone together," said Cummings. "It’s the right way to go about the work of the people. It’s Maine’s way."

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Governor Baldacci welcomes President Filip Vujanovic of Montenegro to Maine and accepts his invitation to visit his country

Cummings also put forward a Home Protection bill which protects homebuyers. The law passed unanimously. Bringing people together is shaping up to be the way of Speaker Cummings. He also fought tirelessly to increase funds for higher education.

Sen. President Beth Edmonds has taken bold measures to ensure the health and wellbeing of every citizens in Maine, standing up for the most vulnerable in society, defending women’s rights, and trying to get funds allocated for women who cannot afford abortions. "It’s a matter of fairness," said Edmonds—which indeed is Maine’s way.

These leaders and their teams passed a budget that steers the ship of state on a sound course for growth in the global economy. Other measures are under way.

A Governor’s Council on Maine’s Quality of Place has been set up and is examining the way land-use decisions are made and will recommend a plan for protecting, investing in and enhancing Maine’s distinctive quality of place. At the same time major legislation to help curb global warming, with Maine as a member of the Regional Gas Initiative, is working its way through the Legislature. Congressman Allen has cosponsored a landmark climate change bill in Washington D.C., and Congressman Michaud continues to defend our country’s veterans, so they can enjoy Maine’s quality of place without unnecessary stress. Over 150,000 veterans choose Maine to live in.

Last May the governor announced the creation of a tourism sub-cabinet. The tourism industry creates an 11-1 return on dollars invested, and it has potential to grow.

"The tourism industry affects so many pieces of the public and private sector," said Governor Baldacci. "It’s Maine’s largest industry and largest economic engine." The Tourism Cabinet will consist of representatives from ten state agencies that share a major focus on Maine’s natural resources. "We will begin working as a coordinated team to help move the industry forward."

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DFS Commissioner Becky Wyke and her team ensured the states bond rating success by passing balanced budget since the governor was first elected

Frankly, I’m impressed with the Montenegrin tourism and what they have been able to do. Direct investment in tourism has quadrupled there in this past year," said Baldacci, accepting an offer from the president of Montenegro to visit his country. "We’re honored by the invitation. We’re looking forward to bringing a delegation to build on business, agricultural, educational, and cultural connections by working on the partnership we already have. There are already students from Montenegro studying in our schools. We seek to increase that cooperation and partnership."

Meanwhile a new partnership between the University of Maine and Bowdoin College will expand educational degrees for students.

The Council on Jobs, Innovation, and the Economy developed an action plan for moving the state forward on the innovation-focused and cluster-development activities. Their specific recommendations for research and development investments helped formulate a major portion of the bond package that will go to voters.

Then there is the continuing community work of the people of Maine — their "Maine Way" that makes the state such a special place. Some were honored in Augusta. The Maine Democrat chooses to honor them in print.

Without the people of Maine, none of this would be possible. In many ways it’s true, we reflect who we elect.