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Parkinson sworn in, calls for 'shared sacrifice'

Mark Parkinson became governor in a quick ceremony Tuesday evening, then called on “shared sacrifice” to balance the state’s budget.

“The hole is too deep to fill exclusively by cutting budgets and it is also too deep to fill exclusively through revenue enhancements,” he said, speaking before more than 100 people in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes.

He advocated for “modest cuts” to state government and for a delay in planned tax cuts.

Republican leaders called the change in leadership a fresh start.

“This swearing in is a chance to really hit the refresh button,” said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence. “The new governor said many things tonight that are consistent with what leaders of both parties in the Legislature have been saying for months.”

Legislators return to Topeka today for a wrapup session that will focus on a $328 million budget deficit. It also could include attempts by lawmakers to override Sebelius vetoes on coal plants and new requirements about late-term abortions.

Chief Justice Bob Davis administered Parkinson’s oath of office on a family Bible held by his wife Stacy and his three children. The ceremony at the Capital came about two hours after the U.S. Senate confirmed Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services.

Sebelius resigned as governor with little fanfare, then rushed to Washington to be sworn in.

“I’m humbled and I am honored to assume the position of governor,” Parkinson said Tuesday night “I love this state and I’m excited to serve it at a time of real need.”

Parkinson, 51, once served as the state Republican Party chairman. He switched parties and was elected with Sebelius in 2006. He plans to finish her term but has said he does not plan to run for governor in 2010.

Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, said Parkinson has a more “easy going” style than Sebelius and predicted his previous experience meant Parkinson would “be hitting the ground running and not missing a beat at all.”

Parkinson will appoint a new lieutenant governor. But the governor’s spokeswoman, Beth Martino, said he would focus on the wrapup session and not announce a lieutenant governor until after lawmakers have left Topeka.

A Wichita native, Parkinson currently lives in Olathe. He graduated from Wichita Heights in 1975 and later from Wichita State University summa cum laude in 1980.

He later attended University of Kansas Law School where he met his future wife Stacy. They have three children Alex, Sam and Kit.

He previously served in the Legislature and helped craft the state’s death penalty law. As a businessman, he developed a chain of nursing homes.

As the state’s second in command, he has focused on energy and environmental issues.

“I’m confident that Gov. Parkinson will continue the tradition of Gov. Sebelius of working across party lines and emphasizing fiscal responsibility,” said Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita. “I suspect he will focus on the economy like a laser beam and he will do it well.”

Sebelius, 60, has been a powerful political force for the state’s Democratic Party and her departure will leave a void. But Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they think it can be filled.

“An old mentor one time told me ‘governors come and go but the Democratic Party will be here forever,’” said Senate Minority Leader Antony Hensley, D-Topeka. “I think we will just pick up where she left off.”