SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrat Jerry Brown was sworn in Monday as California’s 39th governor, returning to the office he left 28 years ago but inheriting a much different and more troubled state than the one he led then.
The man who once was California’s most famous bachelor took the oath of office after being introduced by his wife of five years, former Gap Inc. executive Anne Gust Brown, inside Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.
As California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye administered the oath, Gust Brown held a Bible that had belonged to her grandfather and was used during her wedding with Brown.
Brown has predicted a grim future for the financially beleaguered state. Where his predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, expressed optimism at every turn, Brown has been realistic since winning the Nov. 2 election. California has faced several years of deep budget deficits and is confronting another estimated at $28 billion through June 2012.
Its general fund is $15 billion less than it was just three years ago, reflecting a sharp drop in tax revenue from a recession that has battered the economy of the nation’s most populous state. Brown, 72, said the choices facing California’s 38.8 million people are painful.
“The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice,” he said.
California was among 26 states swearing in governors with the new year. Among them were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who took his oath over the weekend in a similarly scaled-down event, and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, a Republican who will be the country’s first female Indian-American governor when she is sworn in next week.
Among the other governors inaugurated Monday were Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, also a Republican, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, that state’s first Democratic governor in two decades.
In California, Brown noted how the recession has taken a toll on California and referred to polls showing most voters believing the state is on the wrong track. He urged lawmakers from both political parties to get out of their comfort zones and rise above ideology for the good of the state, asking them to embrace a “philosophy of loyalty” to California.
“We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our hearts and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives,” he said.
Brown’s inauguration was a scaled-down affair, reflecting the austerity of the former Jesuit seminarian and Buddhism student. Brown’s speech lasted about 15 minutes, and the only other speaker listed on the one-page program was his wife.
Brown’s style contrasts with that of past governors, some of whom held inaugural balls after their swearing-in ceremony. Schwarzenegger even threw himself what he called a “wrap party” last month, complete with some of his Hollywood buddies.
Even during Brown’s first term as governor, he preached an era of limits, saying government cannot deliver everything people expect from it. He lived that philosophy himself, ditching the governor’s mansion for a sparsely furnished apartment and driving a Plymouth instead of riding in a limousine.
After voters rejected an $18-a-year license fee last year to stabilize state park funding, Brown declared that Californians were “in no mood to add to their burdens.”
Yet his press aides have not quashed speculation that Brown will try to call a special election this spring to extend a set of temporary tax hikes approved in 2009. Brown said he would not raise taxes without voter approval, but will need some Republican help to reach the two-thirds legislative vote necessary to place any tax or fee measure on the ballot.
Brown responded to reporters’ questions about a possible special election as he left the auditorium.
“I’ll confer with the legislative leaders, and we’ll work something out that makes sense, but we don’t have a lot of time and we’ve gotta cover a lot of ground,” Brown said before heading into his nearby rented loft.
Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia, has said members of her party will fight any effort to raise taxes.
Schwarzenegger took shots at lawmakers early in his term. He once referred to them as “girlie men” for refusing, in his eyes, to make tough decisions before eventually finding a way to negotiate.
“I found both men to be very open, very resolved and charming,” Conway said. “And they’ll need that.”
The new governor will release his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year next Monday, when he is expected to deliver voters a series of stark choices. He said his budgets would not contain “smoke and mirrors,” an apparent reference to spending plans signed by Schwarzenegger over the past few years that often contained accounting gimmicks and unrealistic revenue assumptions.
He promised his version would be painful.
“It’s a tough budget for tough times,” he said.
Brown already has held meetings with lawmakers and state finance officials and held town hall sessions in Sacramento and Los Angeles to discuss the health of California’s finances and public school system.
Brown is the son of former two-term governor Edmund G. Brown and has spent a lifetime in politics, including terms as the secretary of state, attorney general and mayor of Oakland.
His years practicing Buddhism in Japan and working with Mother Teresa in India may come in handy as he tries to broker deals with dug-in lawmakers, many of whom are eyeing their next office with every vote they take.
He preached a spirit of bipartisanship but also said he would not have patience for those who draw lines in the sand.
“At this stage of my life, I’ve not come here to embrace delay and denial,” he said during his speech.
Brown’s wife, a key adviser during his campaign, is expected to play a leading role in his administration. His 98-year-old aunt, Connie Carlson, who was attending her fifth inaugural ceremony, said the two make a great team.
“California really lucked out this time,” Carlson said.
Brown becomes only the second person to serve three terms as California governor. His tenure as the 34th governor, from 1975 to 1983, was before voter-imposed term limits.
During his previous two terms, Brown was criticized for being distracted by his continual pursuit of higher office. He sought the Democratic presidential nominations in 1976 and 1980, then lost a bid for U.S. Senate in 1982.
This time around, he said he’s too old to run for higher office.
Brown later hosted guests at his Capitol office, briefly stepping outside to grab a hot dog and pose for photographs during a union-sponsored event on the lawn.
He also attended an evening reception at the California Railroad Museum in the Old Sacramento tourist section. A bipartisan crowd of several hundred mingled before a California-themed buffet that included sushi, pulled pork, various California cheeses, kiwi fruit, oranges and Peets coffee.
Adviser Steven Glazer said all inaugural festivities were expected to cost less than $100,000.