Tom Corbett has been sworn in as Pennsylvania’s 46th governor.
Corbett took the oath of office a few minutes after noon on Tuesday, in front of a soggy and cold crowd of supporters, legislators and four former governors.
During his address Corbett, a Republican, promised to push for reform measures and to shrink the size of government. He vowed to create “a government that has the courage to find fiscal strength in restraint. A government that shows compassion for those most in need, and recognizes its citizens great investment. A government that must yield them a hopeful, realistic return.”
Corbett didn’t offer many other policy details, instead sticking to “big picture” topics such as the strength of the commonwealth and its people. “I believe in Pennsylvania and I believe in Pennsylvanians,” he said at one point. Corbett did, however, give a nod to school voucher supporters during his speech, saying, “Today our students compete not only with those in the other 49 states, but with students from around the world. Our education system must contend with other nations. And so we must embrace innovation, competition and choice within our education system.”
During the campaign, he vowed to make lawmakers submit expense reports for spending reimbursements and shrink the number of state vehicles, among other changes.
The question is, whether Corbett’s “good government” agenda will take a back seat to other goals such as selling off state-owned liquor stores.
The new governor said he isn’t fazed by all the challenges he’ll face.
“Small businesses can’t hire. Large employers can’t invest. Government has spent beyond its means, and individual corrupt acts have eroded an essential element of leadership,” he said.
But Corbett also warned Republicans won’t take care of all those problems at once.
“All of this will take time. The challenges we face were not created overnight, nor will they be solved in a 24-hour news cycle, or an arbitrarily conceived deadline,” he cautioned.
Corbett acknowledged the work that lies ahead, including dealing with what is likely to be a multibillion-dollar budget deficit this year.
“You will never hear me say impossible,” he said. “To say it – or worse, to believe it – would accomplish nothing. I see the possible. I see the possible, and I see a promising future for Pennsylvania.”
At times it was hard to hear Corbett over the din of demonstrators a few hundred yards away. They were there to protest natural gas drilling, and the amount of money energy companies donated to Corbett’s campaign.
“We wanted to show Gov. Corbett that the issue of natural gas drilling is not going to go away,” said Paula Chaiken of Luzerne County. “We are going to continue to let him know that it needs to be regulated. It needs to be done safely and it needs to be done right.”
The protesters booed when Corbett was introduced, and chanted throughout his speech. The governor ignored them, as did every other dignitary in the inaugural program except Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, who said, “we know the First Amendment is alive and well in Pennsylvania,” during his closing remarks.
Corbett took the oath of office on a Bible once owned by William Penn, which caused some concern among history buffs who were worried about rain and snow ruining the historic artifact. Corbett staffers say there wasn’t a “Bible understudy” ready to go if the rain was too heavy. Instead, the plan was to simply stick Penn’s Bible in a plastic bag.