State of State to carry ‘optimistic tone’

Posted March 09, 2009, at 8:52 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci will focus largely on education, health care and opportunities in Maine’s energy industry during his State of the State address tonight.

The governor’s staff was tight-lipped Monday about specifics but said there will be several significant new initiatives in the speech, which he will deliver to a joint session of the Legislature beginning at 7 p.m.

“The governor is going to take a realistic look at the current state of the economy but he is also going to outline a strategic plan for recovery,” said Baldacci spokesman David Farmer. He described the speech as setting an “optimistic tone.”

Energy issues — both challenges and opportunities — will take up a good portion of the governor’s address. Farmer said the governor would propose new initiatives on how the state can capitalize on Maine’s abundant supply renewable energy sources.

Baldacci has made wind energy a major focus of his administration in recent years. State agencies have adopted new regulations aimed at speeding up the regulatory review process for wind-energy projects in much of the state.

The state also is working actively with researchers at the University of Maine to develop turbine technology able to withstand the brutal conditions in the Gulf of Maine, which experts say has some of the best wind resources in the nation.

The governor has in the past also touted opportunities to generate energy from the tides and Maine’s abundant forests.

Farmer said health care and education would be the other major themes in the governor’s speech.

On Monday, Baldacci was in Washington County on a mission that highlights the challenges facing Maine’s economy. The governor met with millworkers and Domtar management as well as local officials to discuss the impending, indefinite shutdown of the company’s Baileyville pulp mill.

While there is no specific date for the governor to delivery a State of the State address, most such speeches are given earlier in the year. The Baldacci administration chose to wait until after Congress and President Obama had passed a federal economic stimulus package, which is expected to funnel nearly $1 billion or more to Maine.

The governor’s State of the State address will be aired live on the radio and television stations of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

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