Text of Rendell's inaugural address
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Let me begin by thanking the thousands of people whose work in this long campaign year helped bring me here today. Let me also thank the men and women of our administration whose talent, energy and commitment have helped us achieve so much and who have joined with me again in our efforts to do even more. And lastly I thank the people of Pennsylvania who demonstrated their confidence in me and have given me the opportunity to lead once again.
Four years ago, I stood on these steps and said that we needed to change our state's direction. We were a commonwealth in crisis: facing a $2 billion budget deficit; with an economy that had bypassed too many of our smaller cities and towns; a property tax system that threatened the ability of working citizens and especially the elderly to keep their homes; and education system in desperate need of comprehensive public investment -- investment that had been forestalled for nearly a generation. We needed to change course, to rededicate ourselves to protect Pennsylvania's environment; to expand and improve the way we deliver health care to our citizens; and to make government more efficient and less wasteful.
Together, Democrats and Republicans from every part of the state took action to address these pressing problems. Decisive action came from hard decisions and bipartisan compromise. Change worth making never comes easy, and there was intense, sometimes bitter debate about the choices we faced. But in the end, we made great strides in positioning Pennsylvania to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
First and foremost, we invested in Pennsylvania's children, with more than $1.8 billion of new funding for public education. We triggered new momentum in Pennsylvania's economy through an innovative $3 billion economic stimulus program. We reinvigorated Pennsylvania's commitment to the environment through the $625 million investment in the Growing Greener II initiative. We achieved savings of $1 billion in the operation of state government. We dramatically expanded drug prescription coverage for senior citizens through the PACENET program and ensured that all Pennsylvania's children will soon be covered by health insurance. And finally, we enacted the most far-reaching property tax reduction in the state's history.
I am proud that our administration and legislators on both sides of the aisle made the tough decisions that the times demanded which let us achieve so much over the last four years. Together, we enacted into law a record number of significant pieces of legislation. As a result, I believe that we have put Pennsylvania firmly on the road to enduring progress.
But today is not the time to rest on our laurels. There is much yet to be done.
In 1936, four years after he was elected to lift America out of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt noted the progress that had been achieved to that point and asked: "Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead? Shall we call this the promised land? Or, shall we continue on our way?"
It would be easier, certainly, to stop and rest of a while. For we have made great progress and the road ahead, much like that which faced F.D.R., presents unknown risks. It offers an uncertain future -- one with no guarantee of success.
Yet the road ahead offers unparalleled opportunity as well. Fellow citizens, Pennsylvania is poised for greatness. I see a state that has the ability to educate and train all of its children in today's global economy, and one willing to make the kinds of strategic investments that attract high-wage jobs to keep these young people at home in Pennsylvania for a lifetime.
I see a state that makes health care affordable for everyone, especially our most vulnerable citizens -- seniors and children. Ours can be a commonwealth that provides a financially sound system of mass transit and a first-class network of highways and bridges. And to help us get there, I see a Pennsylvania that builds on its status as one of the nation's leaders in the production of renewable sources of energy, like solar or wind, and biodiesel or ethanol -- sources that rely on coal and woodchips, saw grass and agricultural products that we have in abundance.
And finally, I see a Pennsylvania that continues to squeeze every nickel of waste from the operation of government even as it addresses the pressing need for a variety of governmental reforms -- a government that consistently puts common interest ahead of special interest.
To accomplish this vision, in the next 30 days, I will set forth an Agenda for Pennsylvania Progress that calls for major new strategic investments in education, in alternative energy development, in transportation and in growing our economy. And we will start with a major new plan for health care reform. Tomorrow, I will announce the details of the Prescription for Pennsylvania, a comprehensive initiative to make health care more affordable for all of our citizens, while also boosting the competitiveness of businesses statewide by reducing the crushing burden of spiraling health care costs. Enactment of this proposal will make health care more affordable for nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians, and will eliminate billions in wasted health care dollars.
Many in Pennsylvania and across the nation were surprised by the election results this past year. What happened in Pennsylvania told me two things. First, that the voters strongly support the positive investment-oriented agenda that we put in place over the last four years. It also told me that the voters believe that the political process needs reform. I agree with the voters.
Citizens have the right to information about what their government is doing. I strongly believe we need a new open records law to ensure that every citizen can engage in the political process and hold their elected officials accountable. We need laws and rules that guarantee that all bills or amendments are carefully considered by those who cast the votes and by citizens who have the right to express their opinion before legislative action is taken. We need controls on campaign contributions to level the playing field and ensure that those interests with lots to donate don't unduly influence the political process. We must select our state appellate court judges on merit. I believe we must have an independent expert panel to ensure that our judiciary includes only the most qualified jurists. We should amend the constitution to take politics out of the defining of legislative districts and leave it solely in the hands of the citizens. We should establish a bipartisan commission to study and recommend the appropriate size for a smaller legislature. And finally, I believe we should amend our constitution to establish term limits for every state office.
We all have a deep concern for the health of our democratic institutions. The reforms I've called for will revive the democratic debate, ensure greater participation and inspire more citizens to engage and protect this great experiment called democracy.
I call on the members of the legislature to resist the temptation to engage in partisan politics and choose to do what is right for the future of the commonwealth. That does not mean that we will not have differences. I don't presume to corner the market of good ideas, and in the past we have all benefited from different viewpoints represented in both the House and the Senate. We can disagree, but I pledge to you that our disagreements will not, indeed they cannot, stand in the way of building a brighter future for Pennsylvania.
I have taken the oath of office again today with an abiding respect and affection for the great people of Pennsylvania, who have voiced overwhelming support for a government that works together in the service of its citizens.
Over the last four years, I have learned a lot about the awesome potential of our commonwealth, which has its roots in the great resourcefulness and unflagging optimism of our fellow citizens. That spirit has sustained me on many difficult days, and it continues to inspire me to lead with all of the courage, energy and passion that I can muster.
Pennsylvania's future lies in the many challenges ahead and there can be no stopping to rest. But if we work together, there will be no stopping us. Together, we can realize our common dream of greatness for Pennsylvania. Thank you.
First Published January 16, 2007 12:00 am