Gov. John Baldacci’s pledge to veto any proposed tax hike was well received by local legislators Jan. 21 but his call to reject a repeal referendum on the overhaul of the state’s tax system was met with criticism.

The Democratic governor made his comments Jan. 21 in his annual State of the State Address to a combined House and Senate session.

“The governor had a difficult job to do last night,” state Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, said Jan. 22.

“The tone was right,” Rector said. “There was modest optimism but he noted that we will be weathering some challenging times.”

Rector said, however, that he thought the governor’s criticism of the upcoming people’s veto referendum on June 8 was too harsh.

That vote will decide whether a tax overhaul approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor last year will become law. The pending law would reduce the state income tax but expand the sales tax to services not now taxed. The law is on hold because a petition drive forced the June referendum.

Rector opposed the law, saying it was not certain what the impact of the overhaul would be and that this was not a good time to experiment.

The state senator also said he wished the governor would have spoken in support of charter education.

Rep. Edward Mazurek, D-Rockland, said he liked the governor’s call to use Maine’s natural resources to create jobs and improve the economy. The call for an emphasis on making Maine a national leader in wind power gained strong support from the Rockland House member.

“Overall it was a good speech,” Mazurek said.

The Rockland representative said he wished the governor had focused more on the need to maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges.

Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, said he thought it was a good speech.

“A leader needs to see and share the big picture,” Kruger said. “Despite these hard times, I agree that there is also great opportunity, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.”

“On the downside, I’m very concerned that some of the cuts will cost more than they save, particularly in the areas of mental health services and child development services,” the Thomaston area representative said.

Rep. Wes Richardson, R-Warren, said he was pleased that the governor will hold fast to his pledge of no new tax increases to fix the budget gap.

Richardson said, however, that he was not happy with Baldacci recommending that voters reject the people’s veto on the June 8 ballot.