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Brown Returns To Lead Financially Troubled California

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Governor Jerry Brown Inaguration,

Jerry Brown is sworn in as the 39th governor of California by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye as Brown’s wife, Anne Gust-Brown, looks on January 3, 2011 in Sacramento.

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS / AP / BCN) — Democrat Jerry Brown was sworn in late Monday morning as California’s 39th governor, returning to the office he left 28 years ago but inheriting a more troubled state than the one he knew then.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Now 72, he took the oath of office after being introduced by his wife of five years, former Gap Inc. executive Anne Gust Brown, inside the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.

Where his predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, expressed optimism at every turn, Brown has been realistic since winning the Nov. 2 election. He said the financial choices facing Californians will be painful.

KCBS’ Phil Matier:

The skills he has learned during a lifetime in and out of politics — from mayor of Oakland to working with Mother Teresa — may also be useful as he tries to broker deals with a highly partisan Legislature.

Brown on Monday preached a spirit of bipartisanship to solve California’s many problems, but also said he would not have patience for those who drew lines in the sand.

“At this stage of my life, I’ve not come here to embrace delay and denial,” he told the crowd.

Brown, sworn in by new California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, paused briefly to some laughter in the audience at the phrase, “without any mental reservation.” Brown was once ridiculed earlier on in his political career as “Governor Moonbeam” for his progressive ideas at the time.

“Really, no mental reservation!” he added with a smile.

“The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice,” Brown said after taking the oath, noting that California has faced several years of deep budget deficits and is confronting another estimated at $28 billion through June 2012.

Brown also noted the toll the recession has taken on California and referred to polls showing most voters believe the state is on the wrong track. He urged lawmakers of both political parties to get out of what he called their “comfort zones” and to “rise above ideology” for the good of the state.

The ceremony was a scaled-down affair, reflecting the austere style of the former Jesuit seminarian and Buddhism student.

Brown’s speech lasted about 15 minutes, and the only other speaker listed on the one-page program was his wife.

Students from two charter schools Brown started — the Oakland Military Institute and the Oakland School for the Arts — opened the ceremony.

Schwarzenegger and former first lady Maria Shriver, former Gov. Gray Davis, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and outgoing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were among the roughly 3,000 people attending.

After winning office, Brown promised to travel California and hold what he called a civic dialogue about what Californians want from their government and what they are willing to pay for it. After voters rejected an $18-a-year license fee to stabilize state park funding, Brown declared that Californians were “in no mood to add to their burdens.”

Yet his press aides have not quashed speculation that Brown will try to call a special election this spring to extend a set of temporary tax hikes approved in 2009. 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.

Brown responded to reporters’ questions about a possible special election as he left the auditorium.

“I’ll confer with the legislative leaders, and we’ll work something out that makes sense, but we don’t have a lot of time and we’ve gotta cover a lot of ground,” Brown said before heading into his nearby rented loft.

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 Schwarzenegger over the past few years that often contained accounting gimmicks and unrealistic revenue assumptions as a way to balance the budgets on paper.

Brown promised his version “will be painful, but it will be an honest budget.”

“It’s a tough budget for tough times,” he added.

Brown has been engaged in the budget problem even before his official swearing-in, visiting lawmakers and finance experts in the capital frequently and hold town hall sessions in Sacramento and Los Angeles to discuss the health of California’s finances and public school system.

Despite the state’s problems, Brown praised California’s leadership as the world’s eighth-largest economy, everything from its universities, farmers, small businesses, nurses, teachers and law enforcement to Hollywood.

They “all give hope, to an even more abundant future up ahead,” Brown said.

Brown also promised to work on spurring the creation of more jobs in California’s renewable energy economy and to ensure that schools “are places of real learning.”

Brown has spent a lifetime in politics, including terms as California’s secretary of state and attorney general.

He becomes only the second person to serve three terms as California governor when he takes over from Schwarzenegger, a Republican who won office during the 2003 recall election. His tenure as the 34th governor, from 1975 to 1983, was before voter-imposed term limits, allowing Brown to seek the office again this year.

He also is the second oldest person to hold the office — behind Gov. Frank Merriam, who tackled budget deficits during the Great Depression and turned 74 during his final weeks in office in 1939.

During his previous two terms, Brown was criticized for being distracted by his continual pursuit of higher office. He sought the Democratic presidential nominations in 1976 and 1980, then lost a bid for U.S. Senate in 1982.

This time around, he said he’s too old to run for higher office. But after introducing his 98-year-old aunt, Connie Carlson, Brown offered a caution for those already eyeing his office.

“By the way, those of you who are hankering after my job, it may be a while. So relax. God willing, the genes are good,” he said.

A reception was also held Monday in the California Railroad Museum in the Old Sacramento tourist section, but all inaugural festivities were expected to cost less than $100,000.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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