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Jerry Brown sets no-nonsense tone for California in inauguration speech

Gov. Jerry Brown urged lawmakers of both political parties to get out of their comfort zones and rise above ideology for the good of the state in a 16-minute inauguration speech Monday.

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“He was in as good a mood as I’ve ever seen him,” says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.

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Schwarzenegger and former first lady Maria Shriver, former Gov. Gray Davis, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were among about 3,000 in attendance

Brown’s first order of business is to have a budget proposal in the hands of legislators by next Monday, January 10. The state’s troubling finances – including but not limited to a $28 billion budget deficit – are expected to consume most of his time for the first year in office, observers say. At two public forums last month – one on education as the state’s largest expenditure and the other forum on the state budget -- Brown already laid out a bleak scenario, showing his hand so Democrats, Republicans and citizens will know to expect reductions in service and further funding cuts.

“The new governor's message is: This is going to hurt,” says Pitney. “But he is trying to temper Brownian realism with a touch of Reaganesque optimism. This was a trip to the dentist and the optimistic language was a lollypop.”

Amid the state's budget crisis, the cost of the reception was kept to around $100,000, administration officials say, compared to the same event at the start of Arnold Schwarzenegger's second term which they say cost more than $2 million.

Brown becomes only the second governor in California history to serve a third term. Earl Warren, who was governor from 1943 to 1953, was elected to three terms but left in the middle of his final term, when he was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Dwight Eisenhower. He is the first governor to serve non-consecutive terms, serving previously from 1975 to 1983.

Lawmakers and Capitol staffers briefed by the new administration say Brown plans to ask California voters to extend billions in sales, income and vehicle taxes in a special election later this year.

Brown read from his great grandfather's diary of the trip, which detailed oxen, horses and mules lying dead in the fields, overcome by thirst and starvation.
"Stories of courage abound" in this state, Brown said. "The people of California have not lost the pioneering spirit or capacity to meet life's challenges. ... This is a time to honestly assess our financial condition and make the tough choices."

Ending on a light note, Brown said, "As the song goes, "California here I come, right back where we started from."


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