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Incoming governors’ inaugural festivities in tune with times

Cautious with taxpayers’ cash

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2010

From extravagant black-tie galas to a casual no-tie barbecue, gubernatorial inauguration events in the coming days will vary widely in cost, size and panache.

Most governors-elect and heads of states returning for another term have vowed to stage relatively simple affairs — a deference to the sluggish economy and high unemployment plaguing the country.

Incoming California Gov. Jerry Brown has planned a "no-frill, low-budget and low-key" inauguration schedule, highlighted by a modest reception Monday at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, Calif., after his swearing-in.

"The day's events and inauguration will very much reflect the times we're living in, which are frugal and lean," said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup. "It's also a reflection of Jerry Brown's style of leadership and how important it is to lead by example."

Mr. Brown's office won't say how much the events will cost, though news reports in the Golden State have put the price at under $100,000.

The biggest costs of the Democrat's Inauguration Day will be for accommodating the media and "staging" issues, such as lights, sound systems and stage construction, Mr. Westrup said. Donations and donated services will cover a portion of the costs.

"Every expense is being examined closely — from food and staging, right on down to all of the other things that come with the event," he said.

But Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott is taking a different approach. The Republican has scheduled about a dozen events next week in the state capital of Tallahassee to celebrate his introduction as Florida's 45th governor.

Mr. Scott's inauguration committee has raised at least $2.8 million in private donations for the festivities, which will include breakfasts, a parade, a military appreciation event and a tribute to his wife, Ann Scott.

As a prelude to his Tuesday swearing-in, Mr. Scott this week embarked on a seven-city "Forging a Path to Prosperity Appreciation Tour," designed to "bring the inauguration of Florida's 45th governor to cities across the state."0

Scott spokeswoman Erin Isaac said no taxpayer money will be spent on inauguration events. Any extra proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to wounded military veterans.

Many of Florida's inauguration events are free and open to the public, including the parade and the swearing-in ceremony at the Old Capitol. Floridians also are invited to the inauguration ball at Tallahassee's 13,800-seat civic center, provided they pay $95.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, decided against holding a ball four years ago as the state's economy began to sour. Florida now faces a projected $3.5 billion budget shortfall. And its 12 percent unemployment is among the nation's highest.

The Scott camp and the Florida Chamber of Commerce estimate the inauguration will provide a $4.5 million boost for the state's economy.

Despite the large scale of Mr. Scott's inauguration events, most Floridians haven't objected because private donations are covering the bills, said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus.

"I'm not sure there is going to be much backlash against it," she said. "I think the public expects that when someone is governor or president, there is a bit of pomp and circumstance that goes with it."

In Ohio, Republican Gov.-elect John R. Kasich will throw himself a four-day inauguration celebration leading up to his Jan. 10 swearing-in ceremony.

The festivities will begin with an event for Lt. Gov.-elect Mary Taylor at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and will conclude with a gala at the Columbus Convention Center three days later. Festivities will include a "salute" to Ohio's next first lady, Karen Kasich, at the Columbus Museum of Art.

Private donations will cover the entire cost of Ohio's inauguration events, according to Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. He said he wasn't sure how much money had been raised, but any money left over will be given to charity.

Mr. Nichols added that the governor-elect and inauguration organizers have been "very mindful and sensitive" to not appear too ostentatious in light of Ohio's sour economy.

But New York Gov.-elect Andrew M. Cuomo plans a low-key inauguration on New Year's Day. He will be sworn into office in a small ceremony in the state Capitol in Albany, then hold a reception at the Executive Mansion.

The Democrat said the state's fiscal crisis makes it no time for expensive celebration.

"It is the time to return dignity, integrity and performance to state government and begin making real progress for the people of this great state," Mr. Cuomo said.

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, in light of the estimated $20 billion budget shortfall the state is expected to face in 2011, has scaled back his Jan. 18 inauguration festivities compared with years' past.

Mr. Perry, who was elected to a third full term in November, has scrapped the traditional inaugural parade. And the governor's swearing-in and barbecue on the Capitol Lawn will be cheaper than his 2007 inauguration, which cost at least $2 million, and will be funded entirely by private donations, said Sarah Beck, a spokeswoman for the inaugural committee.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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