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Brown sworn in as California's 39th governor

Thirty-six years after first taking the same oath, the 72-year-old warns of shared sacrifices and hard choices ahead as the state deals with its financial crisis. He says he hopes to restore people's faith in government.

January 04, 2011|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
  • Thousands attended the swearing-in ceremony for Gov. Jerry Brown at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.
Thousands attended the swearing-in ceremony for Gov. Jerry Brown at the… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Sacramento — Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. was sworn in as California's 39th governor Monday — 36 years after first taking the same oath — warning of shared sacrifice and hard choices ahead to help the state out of its financial crisis.

Striking a serious tone but with a strong undercurrent of optimism, Brown read, uncharacteristically, from prepared remarks. In a 17-minute address, the Democrat spoke of the coming austerity and of overcoming adversity. But he also said he hoped to restore people's faith in government.

The new governor said the spending plan he is scheduled to unveil next week would include painful cuts.

"The budget I propose will assume that each of us elected to do the people's business will rise above ideology.... It is a tough budget for tough times," he said. "Choices have to be made and difficult decisions taken. At this stage of my life, I have not come here to embrace delay or denial."

He vowed that his spending plan would have "no more smoke and mirrors" and "no more empty promises" — one of three principles Brown said would guide his administration. Reiterating campaign promises, Brown also said he would work to return power to cities and counties and enact "no new taxes unless the people vote for them."

He also recalled his father, former Gov. Pat Brown, and his own past as governor with an eye toward a lasting legacy.

"I get to follow in my father's footsteps once again, and 36 years after my first inauguration as governor, even follow in my own," Brown said.

Speaking before an estimated 3,000 people in Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium — an audience that included former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — Brown drew parallels between his first term in office and the present day.

"Then, 1975, it was the ending of the Vietnam War and a recession caused by the Middle East oil embargo," Brown said. "Now … it is our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and our economy caught in the undertow of a deep and prolonged recession."

The formal address was a departure from the man Californians saw on the campaign trail, who spoke extemporaneously and without the apparent coaching that marked his opponent, Republican Meg Whitman. Brown has not announced who will serve in his government and has made just two appointments to his Cabinet.

Monday's ceremony had some light moments. As Brown took the oath from California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, he stumbled over a line about taking his new post without any mental reservation. "Really, no mental reservation," Brown repeated to laughs and applause.

"I think the good humor he brought to it is a recognition of the challenge that he faces," said Pelosi, "and he does so — again — with no mental reservations. No kidding."

Thirty-six years ago, Brown was one of the state's youngest governors at age 36. Now 72, he is the oldest to assume the office. During his speech, Brown introduced his 99-year-old aunt and joked about his good health and good genes.

"Those who are hankering after my job — it will be a while," he said.

Although the budget will be the focus of Brown's administration, he takes office with a radically different set of rules from those in place when he was governor previously. Voters have passed measures guaranteeing minimum funding for public schools, local governments and transportation projects. In November, Californians approved a measure allowing the state budget to pass on a simple majority vote and others that make it harder to borrow money or raise fees.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D- Los Angeles) said he was confident Brown would work with lawmakers — something Brown's predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, did not always do.

"What's going to help us move forward quickly is that he's committed to being a governor who actually works cooperatively with the Legislature — prodding us along, yes, but finding common ways of getting to those solutions," Pérez said. "Having a cooperative relationship between the governor and the Legislature is very important."

After the hour-long swearing-in ceremony, Brown returned to his downtown Sacramento loft before heading to his Capitol office, where he attended a private reception with family and invited guests. He emerged about 1 p.m., making his way through the Capitol halls en route to an inauguration party on the Capitol lawn, hosted by the Orange County Employees Assn. and state Sen. Lou Correa (D- Santa Ana).

The governor also went to a gathering of labor leaders at a Sacramento hotel. Later, he attended an invitation-only ceremony at the California Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento, and in the evening he stopped by a restaurant where about 100 journalists and political insiders were having dinner.

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