Taft, facing budget crisis, takes oath for second term

By ROSE HANSON, Associated Press Writer

BEXLEY, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft began his second term early Monday by acknowledging that balancing the next budget will be tougher than any in the past 50 years.

But Taft, a Republican, said he is more prepared than he would have been if similar economic difficulties had existed when he first took office four years ago.

"I am a little more calm and comfortable with what is happening," Taft, 61, said after he and Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley were sworn in at midnight in a brief ceremony at the governor's residence in suburban Columbus.

"I have got my feet on the ground," he said. "I have got a team in place and I feel I am far better prepared to deal with the severity of the challenges."

Taft (pictured, above) was sworn in among friends and family members in front of the fireplace in the living room and signed the document at his dining room table.

The swearing-in, conducted by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the Ohio Supreme Court, was to be repeated in a ceremonial event open to the public later Monday morning.

Taft said completing the Third Frontier high-tech project will be one of his top goals. Taft wants to spend $1.6 billion to improve high-tech research in such areas as biomedical science to retain and attract higher-paying jobs.

Bradley, 50, a bank vice president and Columbus city councilwoman, became the nation's first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor. She was also appointed director of the Ohio
Department of Commerce.

Bradley said the significance of being elected the first black woman lieutenant governor started to hit her after she was sworn in.

"It's awe inspiring," she said. "I'm very proud that I'm representing the state of Ohio. It's a shining star in our nation."

Monday's inaugural ceremonies were to last through the day but were scaled back from four years ago.

Only one day of activities was scheduled instead of three and only one inaugural ball instead of three. The cost was to be about $500,000, all in private donations, said Taft spokesman Orest
Holubec. The cost four years ago was about $1 million.

When Taft took office in January 1999, Ohio was still recording healthy tax receipts and state government was flush. His top priority was establishing his volunteer reading program, OhioReads.
This year, Ohio is facing its third budget deficit in two years.

Taft is preparing to sell two sets of tax increases to lawmakers; an increase on alcohol or tobacco sales to fix the current deficit and a tax increase to help balance the next two-year budget, which
begins July 1.

Taft will work with a House and Senate both controlled by Republicans whose majority grew even more following the November elections. But both chambers also have small but strong cores of
conservative lawmakers vehemently opposed to raising taxes.

Though times are different from four years ago, Taft is hopeful he can work with lawmakers to address the problems, Holubec said.

"The inaugural celebration is a time when all Ohioans celebrate things that are good about the state," Holubec said. "The governor will set a very hopeful and realistic tone in his inaugural address and set the tone for the next four years of his administration."

Monday morning, about 300 children from around Ohio will witness Taft's ceremonial swearing in.

Monday night, guests to the inaugural ball are being asked to donate canned goods which will be given to the poor.

"Certainly, these are tough economic times, and the governor and Jennette Bradley thought this was a very good opportunity to not only celebrate a historic occasion but help those most in need in the state," Holubec said.

At the midnight swearing-in ceremony, Moyer used the family Bible -- the same one used by William Howard Taft, the governor's great-grandfather, when he was sworn in as president in 1909.
Taft's daughter, Anna, was to administer the ceremonial oath later Monday.

State Auditor Jim Petro and Attorney General Betty Montgomery also were to be sworn in Monday as they switch jobs; Petro was elected attorney general in November, and Montgomery was elected auditor.

Treasurer Joe Deters and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell were to be sworn in for their second four-year terms.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)