"Our priority remains our state's children. Our neighbors who need help. Public health and safety," Baldacci said. "During these unprecedented times we must balance the state budget at the same time that the recession is placing increasing demands on government to take care of people and families in need."
The biggest cuts are in aid to local schools and human services programs. Over the remainder of the two year budget, schools will see aid reduced by $73 million. Social services to poor Mainers will be reduced, but not eliminated. Those reductions are nearly $68 million.
With school finding a shared responsibility, the governor is rejecting the suggestion that he is shifting the state's burdens to local government with the education cuts and the reduction of $27 million in revenue sharing to cities and towns.
"I've tried to as best I can mitigate all of these impacts, but recognizing there are going to be impacts. But if we work together we'll get through this."
Balcaddi says local governments should explore more consolidation of services. He says the county jail consolidation is an example of how regional cooperation can save property tax dollars. But Senate GOP Leader Kevin Raye doubts that consolidation will work in the time available to the towns. He is also concerned that nearly half of the Governor's budget solution comes in the form of one-time funds, such as the more than $12 million from various special revenue accounts that are used to pay for several state agencies and programs.
"We're going to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work necessary to fully vet all of the components of the budget, and in particular those things that are one-time in nature, because we don't want to push the problems off to the next governor or legislature", Raye said.
Finance Commissioner Ryan Low says there are significant ongoing cuts proposed in the budget that will help the state after this administration leaves office.
"That $250 million, that $275 million in reductions to state agencies in the second year of the budget results in reductions of nearly $500 million of reductions in an ongoing nature," Low said.
But there are lawmakers and interest groups that say the Governor has not explored the option of raising new revenue. The Governor told reporters that any budget with a tax increase would be vetoed. Ben Dudley of a group called Maine can do Better says the governor is making a mistake.
"He's discouraging a broader conversation that we would all benefit from," said Dudley "We've made an assumption that the revenues are the worst thing we could do. I'm not so sure when you consider the cuts we're forced to make."
But Tarren Bragdon of the Maine Heritage Policy Center says the Governor deserves praise for rejecting raising taxes in a recession. Still, he says the cuts in ongoing state spending are not enough and lawmakers should consider cutting even more.
"We understand the limitations that he had. On the other hand we need to look at how can we fundamentally afford our government," said Bragdon.
State workers are also asked to take three more unpaid days-off over the remainder of the two year budget. Steve Butterfield, the acting executive director of the Maine State Employees association says Mainers will notice their absence.
"That's 3 more days that state workers aren't going to be there to do road and bridge maintenance," said Butterfield.
Members of the legislature's Appropriations Committee were cautious in their response to the proposals. They have yet to start their review of the hundreds of pages of budget documents. And they fear that this may not be the last time they have to adjust the budget as the recession wears on. Orono Rep. Emily Cain is the co-chair of the Appropriations committee.
"There is a growing sense that this year and next year are about as bad as it can get. I hope that's true, I don't know. I don't think anyone knows."
The committee is planning on starting its public hearings the first week in January. While there has been no final decision, it's expected at least some will be held at the Augusta Civic Center. The panel hopes to complete its work in March and send a package of budget changes to the full legislature for its consideration.