Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett took office Tuesday, pledging to reduce the size of government and implement fiscal restraint.
Corbett, a Republican and the state’s former attorney general, succeeds Gov. Edward Rendell, a Democrat who served for eight years. Corbett will work with a GOP-controlled General Assembly. The Senate retained its Republican majority in the November elections while Democrats lost control of the House.
In a 16-minute speech outside the statehouse in Harrisburg, Corbett said he and Lieut Gov. Jim Cawley “seek to chart a new course” for Pennsylvania, with a leadership that is responsive to fiscal realities.
“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 during his inaugural address. “And I will dedicate each and every day over the next four years to fiscal discipline and a responsible, limited government.”
The new governor did not give details of specific fiscal initiatives or other goals of his administration, but stressed that a competitive educational system will help the state attract businesses and rejuvenate its agriculture and manufacturing industries.
Corbett will need to file his first-ever budget in early March. Officials must address a nearly $4 billion deficit in fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. That shortfall is the result of federal stimulus funds Pennsylvania will not receive next year, and increasing Medicaid and pension costs, among other mandated expenditures.
The governor has said that he does not favor raising taxes to help balance the budget. Instead, his administration will seek to reduce spending on top of the billions of expenditure cuts that Rendell has already implemented.
“We will lead the way toward a government that understands that, just as families have found a way to live within their means, it too must budget in a way that is responsible and honest,” Corbett said. “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.
In addition to his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, that state’s fund for roads, bridges, and public transit is short $472.5 million in fiscal 2011. Pennsylvania has struggled to find a long-term transportation funding solution.
A plan to implement tolls on Interstate 80 and generate $60 billion of revenue over 50 years was rejected by the Federal Highway Administration last year. Since then, lawmakers have yet to develop an alternative funding plan for transportation infrastructure.