Last year at this time, Gov. Baldacci was gearing up for his final year in office by devising a supplemental budget that would be greeted with outcries of pain and protest in every corner of the state.

Facing a bleak economic outlook in Maine and across the country, the second-term governor confronted the problem of crippling revenue shortfalls by serving up a spending plan that called for widespread belt-tightening and sacrifice.

No state agency was spared; no state service or client of state government was unaffected.

Baldacci’s critics hated the budget cuts, but what many hated even more was the governor’s steadfast opposition to increasing taxes as a way to ease the pain of the spending restraints.

Advocates of a vast array of state programs and services loudly, and frequently, insisted that someone, somewhere in Maine, should pay higher taxes to prevent some program or other from feeling the sharp blade of the budget ax.

The governor knew what his detractors didn’t know, or didn’t choose to admit: Raising taxes during a recession or in the early days of recovery is the surest way to stall economic growth and impede job creation.

Baldacci stuck to his guns, fought off the tax-hike zealots and, unfairly and ironically, became the implied fall guy for Maine’s economic doldrums when the economy emerged as the dominant theme of this year’s campaign to elect his successor.

To his everlasting credit, Baldacci never never wavered and never complained about taking the heat for economic conditions that were mostly beyond his control.

And now: vindication.

SHORTFALL SHRINKS

This week, just in time for Thanksgiving, the state’s Revenue Forecasting Committee previewed its December report projecting that the state will collect $365 million more income than expected during the two-year fiscal cycle that begins in July.

That means the anticipated $1 billion-plus budget shortfall discussed and debated during the gubernatorial campaign will fall to approximately $840 million before new Gov. Paul LePage and his 10-member advisory committee identify even one dollar of savings as they begin constructing the first budget of his administration.

Maine law requires the state to balance its budget, so LePage still faces a daunting challenge when he delivers his spending plan to the Legislature in February.

But he can thank his predecessor for giving him a head start toward closing the gap.

Fueling the revenue increase — and providing evidence of Baldacci’s wisdom in resisting tax increases — are upswings in corporate earnings and personal income.

“Corporate earnings are driving the improvement in Maine,” Baldacci said after the Revenue Forecasting Committee’s projections were announced on Tuesday.

“After shedding more than 30,000 jobs, companies in Maine are rebounding and profits are improving, especially for large, multinational corporations. While job creation is still lagging, Maine’s unemployment level is dropping. There are still too many people out of work, but at least the unemployment rate is heading in the right direction.”

Gov. Baldacci now can leave office knowing he has set the stage for an economic resurgence in the state he served diligently and effectively for eight years.

And LePage can start digging out of a much less intimidating financial hole than the one he assumed awaited him when he claimed his electoral victory just a few weeks ago.

NATIONAL GOOD NEWS

The encouraging report on the Maine economy previewed by the state’s Revenue Forecasting Committee this week wasn’t the only economic news we can be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

There were also indications that the economy is growing nationwide, with personal income and consumer spending on the rise as the holiday shopping season begins in earnest.

At the same time, fewer Americans are applying for unemployment benefits — a reliable sign that the job market is starting to recover.

The past year — the past several years — brought persistent hard times to Maine and the nation.

But as we give thanks for the good fortune of living in the greatest country on earth, there is reason to believe we have turned the corner.

And even when things aren’t going as well as we might expect, or hope, we should never forget that we are privileged to live in the freest, most accomplished nation in human history.

No matter what problems we encounter, what challenges we face, what setbacks we experience, we possess the resilience and the ingenuity to prevail.

For that, we must always be thankful.