Corbett sworn in as Pa.'s new governor
Tom Corbett, accompanied by his wife, Susan, holding a Bible once owned by William Penn, takes the oath of office to become the 46th governor of Pennsylvania at the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. on Tuesday. (Associated Press)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s chief justice, Ronald Castille, administered the oath in an outdoor ceremony at the state Capitol attended by more than 1,000 supporters who showed up despite the rain and slush. Corbett placed his hand on a Bible once owned by William Penn, which was held by his wife, Susan.
In his address, Corbett said the state faces serious challenges that include high unemployment that stood at 8.6 percent in November, government spending “beyond its means” and corruption that has eroded public trust in government, an apparent reference to the investigation of the Legislature he launched four years ago as state attorney general.
“The chill that we feel today isn’t solely January’s wind,” he said. “We gather during uncertain times and no one has been left untouched.”
Corbett promised during his campaign that he would balance the state budget without increasing state taxes or fees despite a projected deficit of $4 billion or more, but he did not make any specific promises in Tuesday’s speech.
He did stress his determination to reform government and expand taxpayer-financed alternatives for parents who want remove their children from failing public schools.
“We must act to renew the people’s trust in government. We must restore transparency, accountability and fiscal discipline,” he said.
Behind the inaugural arena, about 100 protesters chanted, carried signs and blew whistles in Soldiers’ Grove to register opposition to natural-gas drilling uses the new technique of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” that allows gas to be extracted from the rich Marcellus Shale formation deep below the surface.
“Tom Corporate — No way, no fracking in Pa.!” one activist shouted through a bullhorn.
Corbett received substantial campaign contributions from the natural-gas industry. He has stood firmly against any new tax on natural-gas drilling, leaving Pennsylvania as the only state with significant natural gas production that does not tax it.
“I will honor your trust by standing firm in my guiding principle to do the right things, for the right reasons, even in the most challenging of times,” Corbett said in his speech. “And I will dedicate each and every day over the next four years to fiscal discipline and a responsible, limited government.”
The Corbetts began the day by attending a Roman Catholic Mass in his honor at the Cathedral of St. Patrick, while workers wielded shovels and snowblowers to clear the east entrance to the Capitol, the site of his noontime swearing-in.
Jim Cawley, a lawyer and Bucks County commissioner who was Corbett’s running mate, was sworn in inside the packed chambers of the state Senate, where he once worked as a legislative aide.
Cawley spoke of building a better relationship with the business community, changing public-sector pensions and developing a “fair, equitable and productive legal system.” He cited voter sentiment from the November election.
“The message they sent was that what’s been done in the past isn’t working,” Cawley said. “It’s not working for them, it’s not working for us.”
He said the state faced great challenges, but also an opportunity to find new solutions.
The Corbett team decided to hold his swearing-in outside, leaving rain-drenched teams of volunteers to clear snow and ice from the bleachers and folding chairs before a large stage festooned in the inaugural colors of garnet and gold.
“It’s ugly,” said one volunteer, Allen McCormack of Harrisburg.
“It’s just another way our governor is going to be tested,” he said, “and he’s up to it!”
The Capitol was bustling with activity more than two hours before the noon ceremony, with state troopers providing security and Boy Scouts posted at hallway intersections to give directions to visitors.
Corbett, 61, a Republican who has been Pennsylvania’s sitting attorney general since 2005, succeeds Democrat Ed Rendell, who had served the maximum two terms.
The new governor and his supporters planned to celebrate Tuesday night at an inaugural ball at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. It was expected to feature three live bands, 30 bar stations and five regionally themed pits with chefs preparing modern-day twists on distinctly Pennsylvania foods from venison pot pies to flaming mushrooms.
Corbett enjoyed strong statewide name recognition during the campaign because of his office’s ongoing investigation of alleged corruption in the state Legislature. He was elected in November on promises to cut state spending and erase a multibillion-dollar deficit without increasing state taxes or fees.