- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 6 (UPI) — Governors in six states and Guam took their solemn oath of office Monday, and all were on the same note when they rallied their citizenry for the tough job of paring down already-lean state budgets.

California's Gray Davis pledged to create new jobs during his second term to help the Golden State cope with a staggering $35 billion deficit while new chief executives were sworn in under similar circumstances in Wisconsin, Arizona, Wyoming, Minnesota, Idaho and the territory of Guam.

"We must tighten our belts without hardening our hearts, and protect our progress in public education, public safety and children's health insurance," Davis said during the swearing-in ceremony in Sacramento. "Now is not the time for pomp and circumstance, but for hard work, hard truth and hard choices."

Davis will release his budget proposal Friday, and it is expected to contain draconian cuts in virtually every government sector and the possibility of tax increases that statehouse Republicans have vowed to fight.

Last week, Davis announced a series of job-stimulation measures aimed at revving up the state's economy and its tax revenue stream. In his address Monday, Davis said he would seek to nurture small business and the biotechnology industry, preserve school and road construction programs and make the state an "arsenal" in the war on terrorism.

"Our aerospace and defense workers once supplied the stockpile that won World War II, then the Cold War," Davis pointed out. "Today, California possesses the ingenuity and technology to lead the triumph over terror and help all Americans secure their homeland."

The always-well-coiffed and unflappable Democratic governor said California's budget woes reflected a downturn in the national economy that was having an impact on every state.

Davis did his best to cultivate the Republicans in the Legislature, who are a minority but still hold critical swing votes on budget matters.

"None of this will be easy," he admitted. "It will require hard work, long nights and great sacrifice."

Democrat Jim Doyle also called for bipartisan cooperation Monday as he was sworn in as Wisconsin's governor, ending 16 years of Republican domination of the executive branch. Doyle said solving the state's budget problems would be his top priority.

"I am keenly aware of the challenges ahead of us and the tough choices that must be made if we are to get our state back on track financially, back on track ethically and back on track of putting the people of Wisconsin first," he said in prepared remarks.

Doyle continued: "From here on out, state government will move people together, not by dividing them. That means we'll approach problem-solving together, not as Republicans and Democrats, not as business and labor, but as citizens of one state, headed together, toward one future."

Doyle will be working with a Republican Legislature and already has agreed not to push any new taxes to shore up the state budget, which is $2.6 billion in the red.

In Minnesota, Republican Tim Pawlenty took over from former wrestler-turned-politician Jesse Ventura, becoming at 42 one of the youngest to head the state that faces a $4.5 billion budget shortfall over the next 2.5 years.

"Minnesota is great because we build great progress out of great challenges," Pawlenty said in his inaugural address.

"I know Minnesota, and I know there is great progress just over the horizon," he said. "Great challenges bring great progress in Minnesota, and Minnesota will once again rise to the occasion. Government is not the problem. I am not anti-government; I'm anti-lousy results."

Arizona's Janet Napalitano also vowed to protect education and children's programs during her first term as governor, despite a $300 million state deficit. A resident of the state for the past 10 years, the former attorney general broke out into a proud wide smile and blurted out the words, "So help me God" as she took the oath during an outdoor ceremony in Phoenix.

"We are in the deepest financial crisis of our history," the 45-year-old Democrat said in her address. "Our Constitution requires a balanced budget. But again, we must not balance our budget on the backs of children, as we have done too often in the past."

Legislative leaders, however, have already expressed some misgivings about the new governor digging in her heels before budget negotiations have even begun.

"She is a bright woman, and she wants to do what is right for the citizens of Arizona," House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth told the Arizona Republic. "But I am concerned that the governor-elect has already taken some things off the table without any consideration, such as universities and soft capital. The devil is in the details. The political reality is that we have to work together."

Wyoming's new governor, Democrat Dave Freudenthal, attended an Episcopal Church service Monday morning before being sworn in at the capital in Cheyenne where well-wishers in cowboy hats, boots and sheepskin rancher jackets mingled in the building's lobby with others in upscale business suits and fashionable shoes.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was sworn in Monday for his second term. He called on Idahoans in his speech to take inspiration from their pioneer ancestors and make the providing of a better future for the state's children a top priority.

"The greatness of the state of Idaho has not been the result of passivity or mediocrity — it is the result of tenacity and resolve," he said in a speech delivered on the chilly south steps of the capital. "We must be willing to make sacrifices to secure the blessings of today for the generations of tomorrow."

Budget matters were secondary on far-off Guam where Republican Felix Camacho was sworn in shortly after midnight as governor of the Pacific island territory that was devastated last month by super-typhoon Pongsona.

The Dec. 8 storm damaged or destroyed nearly 8,000 homes and left communications and utilities in a shambles. The Red Cross said Monday that 6,000 Guam families were still living in tents and shelters.

Virtually all of the usual inaugural festivities on Guam were canceled, and Camacho told reporters after the ceremony that due to storm damage to government buildings, his administration would likely be operating out of its transition offices for the next six months.

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