ALAMEDA, Calif. — Jerry Brown took the oath of office for his third term as California governor Monday, promising a straightforward approach to tackling the state’s massive budget deficit.
The Democrat takes office facing what the Legislative Analyst’s Office projects to be a structural general fund budget gap of up to $28 billion over the next 18-month period.
“The budget I present next week will be painful, but it will be an honest budget,” Brown said in his inaugural speech.
The speech sounded a theme — sacrifice — without laying out details. They will come soon; the state constitution requires Brown to deliver his first fiscal 2012 budget proposal by next Monday.
The governor said that budget will not rely on gimmicks, and that it will honestly match revenues and expenses.
“At this stage of my life, I’ve not come here to embrace delay and denial,” Brown said, in an apparent reference to his status, at age 72, as the oldest man ever to assume the California governor’s office.
Brown did say the budget would incorporate specific proposals to realign responsibilities between the state and local governments.
“My goal is to provide greater accountability,” he said.
The Sacramento Bee, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that Brown intends to eliminate local redevelopment agencies.
Brown made it clear Monday the budget will include painful cuts.
“It’s far more than waste and inefficiencies we must cut out,” he said. “Government also pays for things most people want.”
Brown reiterated his campaign pledge not to increase taxes without a vote of the people. He is widely expected to push for an early budget deal that will include a special election before the end of June to ask voters if they want to extend a package of temporary tax hikes that have been in place since 2009.
Those temporary income, sales, and vehicle license taxes account for about $8.3 billion of the $93 billion in revenue the general fund is expected to take in this year, according to the LAO.
Brown called on lawmakers to look beyond their party labels to solve the budget crisis.
“This is a time to honestly assess our financial position and make the tough choices,” he said. “In this crisis we simply have to learn to work together, as Californians first and members of a political party second.”
The speech acknowledged that public pension reform would be an issue on the table.
“We’ll have to look at our system of pensions, to make sure it’s fair to the workers and fair to the taxpayers,” Brown said.
Brown only announced two appointments before his inauguration. One of them is to keep Ana Matosantos, an appointee of the previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as finance director, a job that makes her Brown’s point person for tackling the budget deficit.
As if to emphasize the austerity that will be needed from government during what Brown described as a “deep, prolonged” recession, the swearing-in event was low on frills, taking place in Sacramento’s venerable Memorial Auditorium.
What little pomp and circumstance there was came from an honor guard and a choir from two Oakland charter schools founded during Brown’s watch as the city’s mayor.
Brown made several nods to the unique historical nature of the event — both in terms of following his own footsteps, 28 years after ending his first two terms as governor, as well as the footsteps of his father Pat Brown, governor from 1959 to 1967.
He also paused to ask his 99-year-old aunt to stand up, and indicated that he plans to stick around for a while. The state’s term limits laws allow him to serve for one more term after this one.
“God willing, the genes are good,” Brown said. “I won’t say any more.”