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THE INAUGURATION

Schwarzenegger Sworn In, Rescinds Car Tax Increase

After the ceremonies, the new governor moves quickly to tackle state problems, including calling for special legislative sessions.

November 18, 2003|Peter Nicholas and Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger took the oath as California's 38th governor on Monday, vowing to upend the political culture and humble the special interests through decisive action that would amount to the "Miracle of Sacramento."

The audience of 7,500 invited guests, including thousands standing and watching on big-screen televisions, interrupted Schwarzenegger for applause 24 times during the course of his 12-minute inaugural speech, with the loudest ovation coming when he renewed his promise to roll back the state's car tax.

Shortly after the 45-minute ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol, the new governor delivered on that promise, issuing Executive Order 1, which repealed the $4-billion increase that had been approved by the man he replaced -- Gray Davis. It was the first of a series of rapid-fire actions meant to draw a clear contrast with a Davis administration renowned for its caution.

Schwarzenegger issued proclamations to convene a trio of special sessions of the Legislature aimed at overturning a new law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, cutting workers' compensation costs and capping state spending. In the sessions, which will begin today, Schwarzenegger hopes that lawmakers will place two measures on the March ballot -- a constitutional amendment that would cap state spending and a bond issue to pay off the deficit accumulated during the last years of the Davis administration.

Schwarzenegger also issued an order suspending 85 packages of regulations still pending from the Davis administration, and called for a review of Davis' handling of all regulations.

"Makeup, please," Schwarzenegger said while signing the repeal of the car tax hike in the governor's Ronald Reagan Conference Room. "Just joking. Very important to know, a friend of mine asked me before I left Los Angeles; he said, 'Are you going to miss the action in the movies?' I said, 'No, I am going to have enough action up in Sacramento.' Well this is action, not just dialogue, this is action."

Schwarzenegger took the oath of office at 11:20 a.m., his left hand on a Bible published in 1911 and held by his wife, Maria Shriver. Inaugural officials had incorrectly described the Bible as an 1811 edition that belonged to Schwarzenegger's family. It actually was an edition that the new governor had purchased shortly after immigrating to the United States.

Shoulders square, he looked steadily at California Chief Justice Ronald M. George as he recited the words that completed the transfer of power from Davis, who was forced from office in a recall campaign that attracted national attention.

After taking the oath, Schwarzenegger quickly walked to his right and shook hands with Davis, who was standing on a section of the stage reserved for Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and former governors Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. California's only other living former governor, Ronald Reagan, has Alzheimer's disease and no longer makes public appearances.

The new governor then walked to a podium framed by flags and the California seal, where he delivered a speech in which he cast himself as an avenging populist intent on restoring government to an alienated electorate and protecting "the dream that is California."

"This election was not about replacing one man; it was not replacing one party," Schwarzenegger said, looking out over the audience and a multitiered media riser that accommodated hundreds of journalists from all over the world. "It was about changing the entire political climate of our state. Everywhere I went during my campaign, I could feel the public hunger for our elected officials to work together, to work openly and to work for the greater good. The election was the people's veto for politics as usual.... My administration is not about politics. It is about saving California."

Delivering the address in the familiar baritone that is a favorite of impressionists, Schwarzenegger struck an inclusive tone. He invoked Reagan, a GOP giant, but also likened himself to Democrat John F. Kennedy -- his wife's uncle: "In the words of President Kennedy, 'I am an idealist without illusions.' "

Wearing a gray Prada suit, Schwarzenegger, 56, interleaved bits of personal biography with a sober diagnosis of California's troubles.

"The state of California is in crisis," he said, reeling off a series of grim descriptions of the state's condition, some of which his opponents have called inaccurate. "As I've said many times, we spent ourselves into the largest budget deficit in the nation. We have the worst credit rating in the nation. We have the highest workers' compensation costs in the nation. Next year we will have the highest unemployment insurance costs in the nation. And we have the worst business climate in the nation."

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