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Tomblin's inaugural speech outlines goals for next 4 years

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Vowing to stand up for West Virginia and to get the federal government "off our backs," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was sworn in Jan. 14 to his second term as the 35th governor of the 35th state about to observe its 150th birthday. He said the theme of this inaugural celebration is "West Virginia First."

The ceremony started shortly after 1 p.m. on the Capitol steps. Before Brent Benjamin, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, administered the oath to Tomblin, other statewide elected officials tool their oaths of office: Natalie Tennant, secretary of state; Glenn B. Gainer III, auditor; John D. Perdue, treasurer; Walt Helmick, agriculture commissioner; Patrick Morrisey, attorney general; and Robin Davis and Alan Loughry, justices on the Supreme Court.

Perdue's term makes him the state's longest-serving treasurer, with 20 years in office, having first been elected in November of 1996. He said today that his record speaks for itself, and it was tested during his most recent campaign. Perdue said his next term will see even more modernization in technology, because he's seen the state go from writing 4.5 million checks per year down to one-half million checks per year, but he'd still like to become an entirely digital office.

Tomblin started his roughly 17-minute speech by thanking U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller for his decades of service to the state, which was met with heavy applause.

Tomblin also thanked the state's delegation in both houses of Congress, former governors Gaston Caperton and Bob Wise, who were in attendance, other elected officials and finally, his family.

In his inaugural speech, Tomblin listed the accomplishments of state government the past few years. Despite the recent recession which saw many other states make significant cuts to spending in education and infrastructure, West Virginia is doing well "thanks to strong fiscal management of the last 25 years," Tomblin said.

Looking ahead, the governor said lowering taxes will continue to be a priority. The sales tax on food will be gone July 1, the business franchise tax is being eliminated and the corporate net income tax is being reduced, he said.

He noted legislation pertaining to highway safety and mine safety and to monitoring of prescription drugs in order to shut down pill mills. The state is spending money to help people suffering from drug addiction, he said.

"Because our financial house is in order, we can start looking toward the future. We have been able to create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investments in the last few years," Tomblin said.

The governor said he will continue his efforts to protect and increase coal production in the state and the development of gas fields in the Marcellus and Utica shales.

In education, student achievement falling behind. The state must ensure vocational training programs are responsive to needs of modern economy. It must make sure teachers have support they need in the classroom, ensure students have instruction time they need and allow school systems to innovate, he said.

Tomblin said he will continue to fight substance abuse and to improve job climate, even if that means "fighting the federal government to get of our backs and leave us alone, but this is a fight that I will not concede and will not back down."

Hundreds of guests were seated on the steps of the Capitol near Tomblin, and member of the public gathered on the plaza near the "Lincoln Walks at Midnight" statue along Kanawha Boulevard. Blue fleece blankets, embroidered with an inaugural logo and the date, along with a small Charleston Area Medical Center logo, were passed out among those in attendance for the chilly ceremonies.

Gainer, Helmick and Tennant all hosted inaugural receptions in their offices at the Capitol immediately following the ceremonies. Members of the public gathered at the Culture Center for cake and other refreshments among a new display of inaugurations throughout the state's history. Tomblin planned to meet with the public at the reception.