In his first address as governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf said he wants to rebuild the middle class, create more modern jobs, and overhaul the state’s education system.
"With a large deficit, stagnant wages, and a shrinking middle class, there is no question that our challenges are great," Wolf said. "But let's remember: the last time that America went through a great transformation, it was Pennsylvania that led the nation through the Industrial Revolution."
Wolf, who was sworn in Tuesday as the 47th governor of the Keystone State, called himself an "unconventional governor," a reference to his background as a businessman and volunteer.
"I am not a product of our political system," Wolf told his audience at the Capitol complex in Harrisburg, but failed to mention his term as the state’s revenue secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell in 2007. He also graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a doctorate in political science.
The 66-year-old Democrat from York said improving the state's education system is his "highest priority."
"Our state will never be as strong as it needs to be if some schools have all the resources they need and other schools are cutting band and football just to keep the lights on,” Wolf said. "That is why 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 a great education."
Mayor Michael Nutter, in a statement, said the state is “indeed at a crossroads.”
“The Governor said that ‘our schools must be our highest priority.’ I completely agree and look forward to working with him to develop a full and fair funding formula that will enable all Pennsylvania children to get the great education they will need in order to prepare for the good jobs that we all want for them,” Nutter said.
State government, Wolf said, must partner with businesses to create more jobs, and help its citizens by making "smart, strategic investments in public goods-investments in education, health, transportation, and infrastructure that set the table for robust private sector growth."
In November Wolf defeated Tom Corbett, the first incumbent Pennsylvania governor who failed to win reelection.
In his campaign, Wolf said he’d tax natural gas drilling to help pay for education. That’s earned him criticism from environmental groups, many of which were on hand protesting during Wolf's address.
"To the protesters here today, I say: help me develop these opportunities in a way that is clean, safe and sustainable," Wolf said.
The hurdles ahead
- $2.3 budget deficit. He will present his first spending plan in March.
- Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives
- He plans to work to fix Pennsylvania's education system
- Wolf wants to tax natural gas drilling and forward the funds to the state's education system.
- Majority of state worker labor contracts will expire in June and will have to be renegotiated.