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Wolf takes office with a call for bipartisanship, big party

January 21, 2015 GMT

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania’s newly minted Democratic chief executive, found his friendliest crowd of the day at his inaugural bash in Hershey, as thousands dined on prime rib and pierogies with Kennett Square mushrooms while talk of budget deficits and partisan stalemate waited for later.

The bash, paid for through private fundraising, capped a day of festivities including the inaugural ceremony in temperatures just above freezing outside the state Capitol attended by ex-governors and an official estimate of more than 4,000 people.

Wolf, 65, outlined his goals — ending educational disparities in public schools, creating good-paying jobs and providing a government that can be trusted — but gave no more specifics to an ambitious agenda that he laid out during his campaign. Republican response was tepid, and chanting anti-drilling demonstrators could be heard while Wolf took his oath of office and delivered his speech.


Wolf did not mention the obstacle of a projected $2 billion-plus revenue gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1 or his proposals that include levying a new tax on the natural gas industry, restructuring the state income tax and increasing state aid to public schools.

“Nothing is more essential than working together to make sure that every child in Pennsylvania has access to a great education and that all teachers have the resources they need to deliver that great education,” Wolf said. “Our schools must be our highest priority.”

Wolf also returned to his campaign themes of portraying himself as a political outsider — “I am an unconventional leader,” he said — while appealing for cooperation in a divided state government plagued by budget deficits and partisan stalemate.

At the inaugural bash, Wolf gave brief comments from the stage, saying the celebration was about people liking his promise of better schools, better jobs and better government.

“Tomorrow, we have to get to work,” Wolf told the crowd at the $100-a-ticket celebration at the Hershey Lodge.

The Philadelphia band Dreamtime promptly followed with a rousing version of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

The state’s last Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, introduced Wolf at both the inauguration and the party. In an interview, Rendell predicted that the businessman from Mount Wolf, the tiny south-central Pennsylvania town named for an ancestor, would surprise everyone by getting a lot done in office.


“Tom’s a businessman, he knows how to give and take,” said Rendell, who employed Wolf briefly as his secretary of revenue. “He’s done it with his suppliers, with his vendors and he can do it with the Republicans.”

It will be up to Republicans to respond to Wolf’s calls for bipartisanship, Rendell said. Asked what advice he gave Wolf for dealing with the Legislature’s large Republican majorities, Rendell said: “Stay the course. You’re not going to do it all in one day. And the things you care about, dig your heels in.”

Wolf, who ran his family’s building-products distribution company in York County for nearly 30 years, beat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett after plowing $10 million of his own money into a highly effective TV advertising blitz. He plans to present his budget proposals in a March 3 address to the Legislature.


Asked at a post-inaugural news briefing what the sign of success would be for the new administration, Wolf replied: “I’m hoping that people say, you know, ‘They worked together. They made Pennsylvania better, the deficit didn’t exist anymore, we’re actually funding our schools fairly, our economy is back on track. ... We’re taking full responsible advantage of our resources, and we have a government that I can trust.’”

Wolf’s running mate, Mike Stack, who represented a Philadelphia district in the state Senate for 14 years, was sworn in before Wolf.


Associated Press writers Peter Jackson and Mark Scolforo contributed to this report.