Swearing in floor remarks

Democratic Leader Frank Dermody
Jan. 6, 2015

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

I would like to start by congratulating my good friend and long-time colleague Mike Turzai on his arrival to the House Speaker's chair.

While the new Speaker and I have certainly not always seen eye to eye, we have worked alongside each other respectfully in several capacities going back many years.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing to work with you in the new session.

I also want to congratulate the new Republican Leader, Dave Reed.

As majority leader facing the challenges that Pennsylvania does, your job will be difficult.

I sincerely want to work with you as Democratic Leader to do what I know both of us – and the caucuses that we lead – want to do:

Move Pennsylvania forward.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge our incoming governor, Tom Wolf.

The governor-elect brings a wealth of experience and success in both private and public service.

But I'm not sure he – or any governor – ever faced challenges like those he will face as chief executive of Pennsylvania.

I personally pledge my efforts and those of the Democratic caucus to work with him in every way we can to meet those challenges.

We want to, once again, make Pennsylvania an economic, educational and environmental leader in the nation.

Finally, to each of my colleagues here today – both Republicans and Democrats; those of you who are returning and to our new members – congratulations and welcome!

I am sure the new members sitting in this beautiful chamber today already have a sense of what an honor this job is.

But it’s also a tremendous responsibility that each of us has accepted. That will be confirmed as we begin to address the issues facing Pennsylvania in earnest.

From personal experience, my advice is this: Rely on your family and friends, many of whom are here today, for support.

They will keep you grounded and on track.

And thank them often, because when you are here serving, wherever they are, they too will be making sacrifices of their own to help you.

The vast majority of the time, your service as a state representative will be fulfilling and interesting, satisfying and engaging.

But there will be times you will go home with that old phrase playing in your head:

"No good deed goes unpunished."

This job can be frustrating, no doubt. But remember, we serve a demanding taskmaster – the people of Pennsylvania. And they have a right to be demanding.

They are looking to us to work as hard and as long as we must to help create a better Pennsylvania – one where their fortunes, families and lives can grow and prosper.

Above all, that is the most important work we will do here, and if we fail in that, we have not done our jobs. 

There are 203 of us in this chamber, working for 12.8 million people.  Each of us comes from a unique community with unique issues and perspectives.

Indeed, each of us has our own story to tell about how we arrived at the decision to run for public office.

Now, all of us are here for the same purpose – to represent our communities and our constituents in the very best way we can.

But while we are helping our individual constituents and communities, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are all one Pennsylvania.

And as Pennsylvanians, we all share common goals and common dreams.

The former Speaker of the U.S. House, Tip O'Neill, once wrote: Every family deserves the opportunity to earn an income, own a home, educate their children, and afford medical care.

It's what he called the American Dream, and I believe it is the dream of all Pennsylvanians.

That is why Pennsylvania must commit itself to providing a quality basic education for every single child in the Commonwealth, no matter their address, their background, or their family circumstance.

It is why Pennsylvania must strengthen its higher education system to prepare our young people to realize their full potential and all our residents to reach for their greatest possibilities.  

It is why Pennsylvania must create a climate where we lead – not trail -- the nation in job growth and develop our economy in ways that benefit everyone, not just a select few.

It is why Pennsylvania must protect its workers, ensuring that all who provide a good day's work receive a fair day's pay so they and their families don't just stay out of poverty, but participate in and strengthen our economy.  

It is why Pennsylvania must ensure that women who do the same work as men earn the same wage and the same opportunities to support and sustain their families.

It is why Pennsylvania must protect its natural resources and guarantee that as we develop those resources, which we all share, we do so in a way that benefits us all.

And it is why we must begin the difficult but necessary work of bringing our budget back into balance so we can fix the problems we face and once again make the investments we need.

We all understand that we begin this legislative session facing a structural budget deficit that is well over $2 billion.

For the past two months, Governor-elect Tom Wolf has been as honest and straightforward with the people of Pennsylvania as he can. We have a lot of work to do, and it won't be easy work.

Despite this, our new governor has also made it clear he believes we can make real progress, and has committed himself to working with the legislature.

I agree with the governor-elect. Yes, it is going to be difficult, but it is by no means all doom-and-gloom.

I believe we have reached a point where all of us understand and acknowledge the problem.

And when there is honest recognition of the problem, and an honest commitment to address the problem, there is also the potential for innovative thinking and exciting solutions.

So personally, I am looking forward to this legislative session and the challenges that await us.

I believe that governing during difficult times offers the chance for each and every one of us to make a real positive mark on our state and our communities – and the people who live in them.

One thing is for sure, however: We cannot wait any longer. We cannot talk any longer. And we cannot be dishonest with ourselves any longer.

The strategy of the last four years did not work, and it won't work moving forward.

Simply cutting taxes for some while leaving the rest to fend for themselves – and to make up the difference – has gotten us nowhere.

Once we admit that, and I certainly hope we have the intellectual honesty to do so, then we can begin moving forward from Day One.

When we put aside partisan division and work together, some very great things can happen. We’ve shown that.

Pennsylvania’s transportation future is much more secure because of the success we had working together to pass Act 89 and provide long-term funding solutions.

Pennsylvania’s children are safer because of the success we had, working together, to increase protection for them from abuse and other dangers.

These and other positive things happened last session because Democrats and Republicans worked together to recognize common needs and find common solutions.

This is really what the people of Pennsylvania expect us to do.

If we work together, we will move Pennsylvania forward into a better tomorrow and toward a more secure future.

Last week, a great American and a great leader, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, died on New Year's Day.

I was looking back over his career and many of his accomplishments in recent days as I thought about us gathering here today, and I came across something he said that I believe perfectly captures the spirit of what I want my message to be to you today.

So with your permission I'd like to modify it a bit for our purposes here in Pennsylvania. 

When we leave here today, we will go back to our individual communities and our individual constituents, ready to serve their needs and advance their interests.

But when we do, I pray we all still see Pennsylvania for the family that it is.  

Again, I offer a sincere welcome and happy New Year to all House members and visitors who are with us today.

I wish each and every one of you success as we embark on this new legislative session.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.