A report released today says government could save $1 billion a year if spending were cut to national and rural averages.

 Envision Maine, a nonpartisan think tank, released a report called “Reinventing Maine Government,” which compares spending in Maine to other comparable rural states. In areas such as K-12 education, welfare and Medicaid, and corrections, the state spends above both the national and rural averages, according to the report.

 Alan Caron, co-author and founder of Envision Maine, said he hopes the report becomes fodder for debate during the last five weeks of the gubernatorial campaign.

 “It will be controversial, that’s the point,” he said during a press conference in Portland City Hall. “If somebody disagrees with what we’re saying, hallelujah.”

 The report also recommends reducing the size of the Legislature, reducing the number of counties from 16 to eight, and increasing spending on higher education.