Jerry Brown returns to lead a troubled California

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — 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 led then.

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 was her grandfather’s and was used during her wedding to Brown.

Brown has predicted a grim future for the financially beleaguered state. Where his predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, expressed optimism at every turn, Brown has been realistic since winning the Nov. 2 election. California has faced several years of deep budget deficits and is confronting another estimated at $28 billion through June 2012.

Its 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. Brown, 72, says the choices facing California’s 38.8 million people are painful ones.

“The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice,” he said after taking the oath from California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Brown 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, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and outgoing 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.

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.

He promised his version would be painful.

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

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.

Brown has spent a lifetime in politics, including terms as the secretary of state, attorney general and mayor of Oakland, but also will be calling upon a set of skills learned outside the political arena as he tries to negotiate with a Legislature that has grown increasingly partisan and in many cases hostile.

His years practicing Buddhism in Japan and working with Mother Teresa in India may come in handy as he tries to broker deals with dug-in lawmakers. Term limits in the Legislature mean many of them have little experience and are eyeing their next office with every vote they take.

Brown 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.

Brown adviser Steve Glazer said he was unsure of Brown’s plans for his first day on the job. He could drop by any number of celebrations around town, visit the governor’s office or even his rented condo across the street from the auditorium.

A late-afternoon reception was planned for the California Railroad Museum in the Old Sacramento tourist section, but all inaugural festivities were expected to cost less than $100,000.