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New PA Governor Touts ‘Clean, Safe and Sustainable’ Development

Democrat Tom Wolf, who was sworn-in as Pennsylvania's 47th governor on Tuesday, said his administration would be focused on "jobs that pay, schools that teach and government that works."

In a short inaugural address Wolf said his administration would put working-class families ahead of special interests, and he promised an audience at the state capitol in Harrisburg that "I'm going to be an unconventional governor."

Wolf, 65, a businessman from York County, ousted Republican Gov. Tom Corbett with more than 50% of the vote (see Shale Daily, Nov. 5, 2014). The state faces a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall, and his campaign relied mainly on ways to generate more revenue and a pledge to get the state "back on track." The oil and gas industry factored heavily into that message. A popular proposal to tax production at 5% has concerned industry representatives, who still have questions about how such a tax would be structured as volumes continually rise in the Marcellus Shale (see Shale Daily, Jan. 16; Dec. 17, 2014; Oct. 31, 2014). 

Wolf's inaugural speech was short on details, though. When he took the podium chants of "ban fracking now" could be heard clearly -- discernible even during a live webcast of the event.

Social media posts indicated that a large group of anti-fracking protesters had gathered at the inauguration. Pictures showed the group with placards and props to get their message across. During Wolf's speech, Twitter users began taking note and a steady stream of posts about the protesters' disruptions came just a quickly as posts about Wolf, who also acknowledged their presence.

"In Pennsylvania, we're also blessed with an abundance of natural resources: gas, timber, coal, sun, wind, fresh water, agricultural land, beautiful scenery and an opportune location that makes us the Keystone state," he said. "To fulfill our potential, we must take full and absolutely responsible advantage of these resources. Now, to the protesters here today, I say, ‘help me develop these opportunities in a way that is clean, safe and sustainable.’"

Wolf said many of his proposals would be strongly debated in his first term, but he added that he's not going to inhibit the state's economy or its industries.

"As a business owner, I know that the free market requires a constructive partner -- a partner in government -- that means our government should not do everything," he said. "But it can not do nothing either. One thing it can do to create more economic opportunity is to make smart, strategic investments in public goods...things that set the table for robust private sector growth."

Wolf's first budget proposal is due in March. It is widely expected to include a severance tax. Wolf's inauguration came two weeks after state Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Turzai was sworn-in. The new governor will have to deal with a Republican-controlled state Senate as well.

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