Sworn in at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium for California's top job, Jerry Brown is in familiar territory, and not just because he and his wife Anne Gust Brown are renting a loft across the street.
He's been elected to this same office twice before, and where he was once the state's youngest governor, 28 years later, he will now serve as its oldest. At 72, Brown is twice the age he was the first time around in 1975.
But what a different man he is now, and what a different state he leads.
When he was governor in the 1970's and early 80's, it was a time of surpluses and one-time budgets. Now, California faces a $25-$28 billion deficit through June of 2012, a 12% jobless rate, and soaring pension costs for state employees. "The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice," he said after taking the oath from California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.His inauguration was a reflection of hard economic times in California and the rest of the country. The simple and short ceremony was followed by a scaled back "People's Party," a hot dog cook-out at the capitol. No marching bands or gala balls here.
But it's going to take a lot more than a weenie roast to save the state from financial abyss. With shrinking revenues forcing cuts to critical state programs, getting California back in the green is going to be a tall order.
"I think Jerry Brown will be a check and a balance," says political analyst Hal Dash of Cerell Associates. "I think he realizes the seriousness of the problems. I think the legislature does. Some of the unions aren't going to be happy. Some of the special interest groups aren't going to be happy. I think there will be pain across the board."
He presents his first spending plan next Monday, and suggested in recent economic forums that everything is on the table. "It's a tough budget for tough times," Brown said today. There is growing speculation he'll ask voters to extend the temporary income, sales and vehicle taxes that were approved in 2009, and are set to expire this summer. Voters have already indicated they don't like that idea, but on the campaign trail, Brown vowed he would not raise taxes without their approval.
Along with his reputation for austerity, Brown over the years has raised eyebrows with some unorthodox moves. As governor in the 70's, he slept on a mattress on the floor of a Sacramento apartment, and drove himself in an old Plymouth sedan rather than use the official governor's limousine.
He raised eyebrows with a proposal that California launch its own communications satellite, focused on alternative energy, and education reform. His celebrity girlfriend at the time, singer Linda Ronstadt, called him "moonbeam" in a Rolling Stones article, and the moniker "Governor Moonbeam" has stuck with him to this day. He went on to run for US President three times, as well as the US Senate. He later became Mayor of Oakland where he spearheaded the revitalization of downtown, and helped found two schools. In November's mid-term elections, Brown enjoyed a decisive victory over billionaire and Ebay founder Meg Whitman.As he takes the reins as the state's 39th governor, Jerry Brown has the advantage of a clean slate, and a lifetime of political experience. Analysts say he'll need to bring all his talents and creative idea to bear, as he tackles the difficult issues facing California, and tries to broker deals with a highly partisan legislature.
Claudia Cowan currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) San Francisco-based correspondent. She joined the network in 1998.