NEW YORK — Words like "unity" and "shared sacrifice" are in. Dire predictions are leavened with a sense of optimism. And residents are called to live up to the legacy of their states' heroes — like Connecticut's Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; the astronauts who blasted into space from Florida; and the pioneers who settled California.
Confronting high unemployment and record deficits, governors are using their inaugural speeches to pledge fiscal austerity, job creation and a broad effort to rebuild public trust in state government.
Thirty-seven governors — 23 Republicans, 13 Democrats and one independent — were elected or re-elected in November. Most are being sworn in in January and are using the high-profile platform of the inaugural address to describe the perilous fiscal environment they face.
"To those who sincerely believe the state budget can be balanced with no tax increase, I say: If you can do so without destroying our schools, hospitals, and public safety, please send me your bill and I will sign it immediately," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, said Monday.
Together, state budget shortfalls are expected to total nearly $140 billion in fiscal year 2012, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank. And while the national unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, many states are faring even worse — Nevada's rate is 14.3 percent, Michigan and California are at 12.4 percent, and Rhode Island is stuck at 11.6 percent.
Such dire circumstances will force hard choices on governors, nearly all of whom are required to balance state budgets.
In his inaugural speech, Jerry Brown, a Democrat, referred to Californians' intrepid spirit as he outlined the monumental task ahead: closing a budget deficit estimated at $28 billion over 18 months.
"From the native peoples who survived the total transformation of their way of life, to the most recent arrival, stories of courage abound. And it's not over," Brown said.
In Florida, Republican Rick Scott struck a heroic note as well, saying: "We have always been the destination of dreamers, the place where someone with a big new idea could give it a try. Railroads in the wilderness, a magic kingdom, a trip to the moon, freedom from a foreign tyrant, better health, life without winter."
Some governors are urging that politics be set aside for the greater good.
Maine's Paul LePage, a Republican popular with tea party activists, noted in his speech that the Maine Constitution never mentions the word "politics." And Connecticut's Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said in his address: "We will need to solve our problems together — by pursuing with great urgency not Republican ideas or Democratic ideas, but good ideas that know no political master or agenda."
To be sure, other governors are setting a more partisan tone.
Republican Sean Parnell of Alaska, whose state receives more assistance from Washington than any other, used his inaugural address last month to decry a federal government "bent on expanding its regulatory reach at the cost of freedom and prosperity." He added, "Alaskans are hardworking, smart, and we possess something in short supply in Washington — common sense."
Arizona Republican Jan Brewer accused President Barack Obama and her Democratic predecessor, current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, of causing Arizona's problems.
"I took the helm of a marvelous state that had been poorly commanded ... and dead in the water," Brewer said Monday. "And a federal government whose unfunded mandates and sweetheart deals were stealing Arizona's freedom and threatening to bankrupt our state."
While some governors hinted they may have no choice but to raise taxes, several others restated their opposition to increases.
After he was sworn in Saturday, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared: "This state has no future if it is going to be the tax capital of the nation." Florida's Scott, a truck driver's son who made his fortune in the health care industry and spent more than $60 million of his own money to get elected, vowed to cut taxes to spur job creation. "Taxation, regulation and litigation. Together those three form the axis of unemployment," he said.
In Rhode Island, independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee embraced gay marriage in his inaugural speech — a sharp departure from most other governors, who have steered clear of social issues in these tough times.
Most governors tried to strike an upbeat tone as they described the daunting challenges to come.Comment on this story
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval called himself "proudly optimistic" as he took the oath Monday in Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate of any state and leads the nation in home foreclosures.
Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at New York's Fordham University, said what while governors are trying to "manage people's expectations" about what government can do in tough economic times, it is essential for them to start their terms on a high note.
"Talking about how great their states are, how wonderful their people are, plays an important psychological function," Panagopoulos said. "They're trying to remind people there's a silver lining and they shouldn't lose sight of that even in tough times."
Associated Press Writers Glenn Adams in Augusta, Maine, Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn., Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Calif., and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.