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Reelected governors announce agendas

Three New England governors who are returning to office laid out ambitious programs in their inaugural addresses.

In New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, began his second term as he did his first -- stressing the need for bipartisan solutions.

"There has been a historic change in the composition of this Legislature, but our duty to the people has not changed," he told assembled lawmakers yesterday afternoon.

Lynch, 54, of Hopkinton, easily won re election in November and helped Democrats win control of the Legislature for the first time since the 19th century.

He said bipartisanship will be needed to tackle issues, including strengthening the economy, expanding access to health care, ensuring public safety, and preserving the environment. But he said the first task will be to define an adequate education more clearly , using existing school-approval standards and curriculum requirements as a foundation.

Lynch said state aid should go to the neediest communities, not to all, to ensure that all students have an opportunity for a quality education.

"To implement the best education policy for the state, I strongly believe that we must be open to considering a narrow amendment to our constitution," he said.

Republicans gave Lynch a standing ovation on his call for an amendment. Democrats -- who traditionally opposed amendments -- gave it a lukewarm reception.

Lynch needs 60 percent of the Legislature to get an amendment to the 2008 ballot.

Two-thirds of voters would have to vote yes for it to become part of the constitution.

"I was the first one out of my seat," said Ted Gatsas, Senate Republican leader.

He said Lynch will need Democratic support to pass an amendment.

In Vermont, Governor James Douglas proposed a series of initiatives aimed at improving the state's communications infrastructure and reducing automobile emissions.

In an inaugural speech yesterday to lawmakers, Douglas proposed a four-part "Vermont Way Forward" program of environmental leadership, job creation, technological advancement, and innovative education -- "a strategy that will allow Vermont the opportunity to complete an economic transformation that no state has achieved but all will envy."

He proposed the creation of a Vermont Technology Authority that would invest $40 million in a statewide fiber-optic network with the towers necessary for wireless technology, from high-speed computers to cell phones.

On the environmental front, he proposed:

reducing the 6 percent purchase-and-use tax on new vehicle sales to 5 percent for hybrids and other vehicles that get 30 miles per gallon or better.

promoting the use of biofuels -- made in part from plants and plant materials -- by reducing the state vehicle fuels tax by 2 cents per gallon for all biofuels and by offering a tax incentive for including biofuels in home heating oil.

increasing the use of alternative fuels to heat state buildings and to power state vehicles.

Maine's 73 d governor, John Elias Baldacci, on Wednesday laid out details of his plan to build on what's right with Maine .

In an upbeat inaugural speech at Augusta Civic Center, Baldacci also said it's time to get more out of government with less, using steps such as sharing services and purchasing goods jointly.

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