Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, was sworn in Tuesday as California’s new Assembly Speaker.

She replaces Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, in a change necessitated by Nunez’s forthcoming departure from the Assembly because of term limits.

Bass, who will be termed out of the Assembly in 2010, said her first priority will be to negotiate a budget for fiscal 2009, which is expected to be a daunting task given the multibillion dollar deficit the state government is facing.

“We have to decide how we will come together to mobilize the incredible assets and resources at this state’s command to solve the budget crisis,” Bass said in her swearing-in speech. “If we can mobilize our resources to respond to major disasters like Northridge and Whittier and Loma Prieta [earthquakes], we must be able to respond to the budget crisis.”

Bass said her longer-term fiscal goal is to reform California’s tax structure. She has asked two former governors, Republican Pete Wilson and Democrat Gray Davis, to head a blue-ribbon panel tasked with studying the tax structure and recommending improvements.

“We have to ask the question of whether a tax structure that was established in the 1930s is sufficient to meet the needs of Californians in 2008,” Bass said.

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