LOS ANGELES – Veteran Democrat Jerry Brown vowed "painful" spending cuts to pull California out of a deep budget hole, as he was sworn in as the state's oldest governor 36 years after becoming its youngest.
Succeeding Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 72-year-old Democrat said the Golden State's finances were in a "dire" state and needed immediate action, starting with a new budget next week.
"The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice," Brown said in an inaugural address in the state capital Sacramento, at a ceremony attended by Schwarzenegger.
"The budget I present next week will be painful, but it will be an honest budget," he added. "It's a tough budget for tough times."
Brown was the youngest California governor since the 1850s when he was first elected at the age of 36 in 1975 -- he remained in power until 1983 -- and is the oldest ever to hold the post this time.
After winning November 2 polls he succeeds Republican former movie star Schwarzenegger, who stood down after seven years in office keeping fans and others guessing over what he will do next.
But Brown's victory celebrations have come to a quick and sober end as he has confronted the scale of California's problems, including a budget deficit estimated at more than 20 billion dollars.
A budget crisis in 2010 pushed the state -- which would be among the world's top ten economies if it were a country -- to the brink of bankruptcy, sending its credit rating plunging and forcing it to pay bills with IOUs.
Unemployment hovering around 12 to 13 percent and record home foreclosure rates have fueled frustration in the state, which is home to Silicon Valley and Hollywood but has been hit hard by the global economic downturn.
Brown called on Republicans not to block efforts to slash spending while signalling that California's schools would be protected from any budget cuts.
"There's no other way forward. In this crisis we simply have to find a way to work together, as Californians first, members of a political party second," he said.
"Our budget problem is dire. But after years of cutbacks, I'm determined to enhance our public schools so that our citizens of the future have the skills and zest and character to keep California up among the best," he added.
Brown was one of a handful of governors taking office after November 2 gubernatorial polls, held alongside mid-term congressional elections in which Republicans won control of the House of Representatives.
Democrats took over in California and Minnesota, while the Republicans seized the reins in Wisconsin and Wyoming. One Republican handed over power to another in Nevada.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, defended his record, saying in his final weekend radio address: "History will be the final judge of my administration?s record ..But I leave office proud of what we have accomplished."
But while commentators will pick over Schwarzenegger's political legacy here, many are watching closely to see what the 63-year-old will do next and if he will return to the movies.
His star power would certainly help him pursue a political career -- there has even been talk about him joining the Obama administration to play a role in environment policy.
Brown, whose campaign focused on his depth of experience, made little mention of his predecessor in his inaugural address Monday.
Referring to his own advanced age, Brown added: "Choices have to be made, and difficult decisions taken... At this stage in my life I have not come here to embrace delay and denial."
© AFP 2023