SACRAMENTO, Calif. | 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 first led in the 1970s.
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.
She held a Bible that belonged to her grandfather and was used during her wedding to Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown has predicted a grim future for the financially beleaguered state. Where his predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, expressed optimism at every turn, Mr. Brown has worked to lower expectations radically since winning the Nov. 2 election. California has faced several years of deep budget deficits and is confronting another estimated shortfall of $28 billion through June 2012.
The state’s 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. Mr. Brown, 72, said the choices facing California’s 38.8 million people are painful.
“The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice,” he said after taking the oath from California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
The new governor noted the recession has taken a toll on California, and polls show most voters think the state is on the wrong track. He urged lawmakers with both political parties to get out of what he called their “comfort zones” and to “rise above ideology” for the good of the state.
In line with gubernatorial swearing-in ceremonies in other cash-strapped states this year, the inauguration was a scaled-down affair, reflecting the austerity of the former Jesuit seminarian and Buddhism student. Mr. Brown’s speech lasted about 15 minutes, and the only other speaker listed on the one-page program was his wife.
Mr. Brown’s style contrasts past governors, some of whom held inaugural balls after their swearing-in ceremony. Mr. Schwarzenegger even threw himself what he called a “Wrap Party” last month to celebrate his seven years in office, complete with some of his Hollywood buddies.
The outgoing governor and former state first lady Maria Shriver, former Gov. Gray Davis, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were among the roughly 3,000 people attending.
After winning office last fall, Mr. Brown promised to travel across the state and hold what he called a civic dialogue about what Californians want from their government and what they are willing to pay for. After voters rejected an $18-a-year license fee to stabilize state park funding, Mr. Brown declared that Californians were “in no mood to add to their burdens.”
Yet his press aides have not tried to quash speculation that the new governor will try to call a special election this spring to extend a set of temporary tax increases approved in 2009. Mr. 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.
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 Mr. Schwarzenegger over the past few years that often contained accounting gimmicks and unrealistic revenue assumptions as a way to balance the budgets on paper.
He promised his version would be painful.
“It’s a tough budget for tough times,” he said.