PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Dan McKee on Tuesday called on Rhode Islanders to help build on the momentum he said his administration has built over his first two years in office, as he was sworn-in for his first full term.
The governor’s inaugural speech focused on his ideas to improve education, economic and public health outcomes, as McKee touted his record since he became governor in March 2021.
“Reminding ourselves of that success is important because it shows that when we work together as one team, we can accomplish what we set out to do,” McKee said in prepared remarks. “Our past success reminds us of the enormous and exciting potential for our state’s future.”
Watch: Gov. Dan McKee delivers his inaugural address
McKee, 71, was sworn in by R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha using his family Bible. The governor was joined by his family and his daughter Kara, who sang “America the Beautiful.” She recently earned a spot on “The Voice.”
The other statewide officers who were sworn in for a first term on Tuesday included Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, the incoming secretary of state, Gregg Amore, and the state’s new general treasurer, James Diossa.
Matos, who McKee picked to serve as lieutenant governor after he moved up to the state’s top job, won the office in her own right in November. She became the first Latina woman and Black person to be elected to the position.
She thanked Rhode Islanders for giving her the chance to continue to serve in the role and said she would focus on improving opportunities for others.
“I will not stop working until my children and every Rhode Island children has better opportunities that what we had,” she said.
Amore discussed the importance of free and safe elections to American Democracy and Diossa talked about how he would bring strong leadership to the state. Neronha, who was sworn into a second term, delivered an impassioned speech that included a call on his fellow state leaders to work to fix health care.
“If we don’t fix health care,” he said, the cash-strapped hospitals might not survive.
All of the elected officials talked about the importance of family.
In his speech, McKee provided a list of development projects that he said shows the state’s momentum, including bringing offshore wind to East Providence, rehabilitating the Superman building and constructing a new state health lab in Providence, investments in Galilee and Quonset and “breathing new life into downtown Pawtucket.”
McKee also said, “we’re delivering historic tax relief to families,” as the governor has recently been entertaining the idea of making a cut to the state’s sales tax as Rhode Island is facing a massive surplus. The governor has been meeting with his cabinet members in recent weeks to put together his next proposed state budget, which is expected to be unveiled later this month.
While specifics were not immediately made available, the governor alluded to wanting to “raise incomes for Rhode Island in all 39 cities and towns.” (The state’s minimum wage increased to $13 per hour on Jan. 1.)
McKee also he’d like to create a “healthier Rhode Island where we reduce chronic illness and improve health outcomes,” and improve education outcomes for Rhode Island children to reach Massachusetts levels by 2030.
“We must be all-in on improving education because that is the key to the long-term economic future of our state,” McKee said.
The governor’s speech came after several religious leaders offered prayers and Statewide Student Advisory Council vice chair Gabriella Bautista Bolvito read an inaugural poem focused on hope.
R.I. State Police Trooper Kim Pitts-Wiley is slated to sing the National Anthem and the Governor’s 88th Army Band of the R.I. National Guard performed “Stars and Stripes Forever.” National Guard Maj. Gen. Chris Callahan presented McKee with the ceremonial Gorget.
The ceremony took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center representing a change in tradition, as governors typically deliver their speeches outside of the State House. R.I. State Library researchers could only find four other years over the past 125 years when Inauguration Day took place somewhere other than the State House.
The speech also came shortly after the death of former Gov. Lincoln Almond, whom McKee acknowledged at the start of his address.
“Let’s stay focused – not on what divides us, but what makes us stronger and what brings Rhode Islanders together,” McKee said. “I am humbled by the challenges before us, but I’ve never believed more strongly in our state’s future.”
Secretary of State Gregg Amore
Attorney General Peter Neronha
General Treasurer James Diossa