HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) – Tom Wolf, a former businessman who was catapulted into Pennsylvania’s highest public office through a combination of personal wealth and political circumstance, will be sworn in as the state’s 47th governor Tuesday in an outdoor ceremony at the state Capitol.
Wolf was the only Democrat nationally to unseat a sitting Republican governor in the Nov. 4 election, crushing Gov. Tom Corbett’s re-election bid with nearly 55 percent of the vote.
The 65-year-old Wolf is scheduled to be sworn in at a noon ceremony outside the rear entrance to the Capitol. His running mate, state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia, will take his oath as lieutenant governor a couple hours earlier in a state Senate ceremony that is closed to the public. Stack will relinquish the Senate seat he has held for 14 years, but the duties of his new office include serving as the Senate’s presiding officer.
“We have a big budget deficit, we have a problem with school funding, we have so many things we can be doing better,” Wolf said.
Wolf is scheduled to take his oath following an introduction by former Gov. Ed Rendell, who served two terms prior to Corbett’s election. Penny Blackwell, a judge from Wolf’s native York County, will administer his oath while Wolf places his hand on a Bible that has been in his family since the mid-19th century.
KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano asked Wolf is he’s nervous, “it’s an new job, I’ve always felt nervous before a new job. Just hoping I can do well,” he said.
Post-inaugural events include an art show at the Pennsylvania State Museum and will culminate in a $100-a-ticket bash at the Hershey Lodge that will feature live musical performances and a broad array of food and drinks from across the state.
Wolf says his inaugural address will focus on the “grand themes” of what he hopes to accomplish, rather than specific initiatives. It will stress bipartisanship as he and the GOP-controlled Legislature prepare to lock horns over how to close a projected $2 billion-plus deficit in the state budget for the year that starts July 1.
“The magnitude of the crisis just makes it more important that we focus on what brings us together rather than what divides us,” he said recently.
Wolf is scheduled to present his first state budget plan to lawmakers on March 3. An approved budget is supposed to be in place before the current one expires June 30.
A year ago, Wolf was virtually a political unknown, one of several Democrats eager to capitalize on Corbett’s sagging popularity amid a public backlash over nearly $900 million in school funding cuts and complaints even among Republicans about his weak leadership skills.
The scion of a wealthy family in a town that bears its name, Wolf served two years as Rendell’s revenue secretary, but for nearly three decades had focused mainly on running the family’s building products distribution business.
A few months before the Democratic primary, Wolf launched a TV campaign financed with $10 million of his own money that portrayed him as a Jeep-driving family man and political outsider. It resonated with viewers and transformed him into the front-runner almost overnight. He won a four-way primary with 58 percent of the vote and turned the general-election campaign into a referendum on Corbett.
Wolf’s campaign motto promised a “fresh start for Pennsylvania,” but some of his major proposals – such as a 5 percent extraction tax on natural gas drilling – are likely to encounter strong GOP resistance unless there are reductions in cost drivers such as public pensions.
When Jon Delano asked about the alleged controversy surrounding Yeungling beer not being served at his inauguration Wolf said, “that’s a really good question. On Saturday I went and bought a case of beer, and I bought Yeungling.”
Wolf says the only reason Yuenging isn’t being served is because the offer came after the beer order was filled.
His campaign promises include calls for increasing the state’s share of public school funding, making taxes fairer, increasing the state minimum wage, limiting political campaign contributions, liberalizing Pennsylvania’s voting laws and preserving public employees’ pensions.
Demonstrating his willingness to do things differently, Wolf is refusing to accept the governor’s salary, nearly $191,000 this year, and has said he and his wife, Frances, will continue to live at their home in Mount Wolf instead of the governor’s residence in Harrisburg, about 30 miles away.
On his first day in office, Wolf has vowed to issue executive orders barring all executive-branch employees from accepting gifts and prohibiting no-bid contracts with private law firms.
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