Schwarzenegger makes way for Brown on California stage

Monday, January 3, 2011

SACRAMENTO - Democrat Jerry Brown was sworn in Monday as California governor, replacing former action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger who completed two terms in office and is not allowed to run again.

Brown, 72, also served for two terms beginning in 1975, before the current term limits were passed into law. He is thus both the youngest and oldest person to be elected California governor.

Brown beat his billionaire Republican opponent in November 2010, pledging to reform California’s finances to balance a 28-billion-dollar budget deficit.

In his inaugural address Brown stressed that the way forward to California solvency was tough but doable.

“The budget I present will be painful but honest,” he said. “It’s a tough budget for tough times.”

Brown recalled the challenges faced by his great grandfather August Schukman - an immigrant to the US from Germany, who travelled across the great plains of the Mid-west to reach California in the 1850’s - as an example of the spirit that would pull the state through the current crisis.

“Stories of courage abound,” he said. “The people of California have not lost their pioneering spirit or their capacity to meet life’s challenges.”

Brown’s inauguration brought the curtain down on Schwarzenegger’s disappointing seven years in power. The former Hollywood star unseated Democratic incumbent Gray Davis by forcing a snap recall election in 2003 as the state was reeling under a 10-billion-dollar deficit.

But he never was able to make good on his pledge to reform the political system, and despite notching kudos for landmark environmental policies, he is leaving the governorship with a deficit three times larger than when he began.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has not announced what he intends to do after his term as governor ends.

In his final hours as governor, the Austrian-born actor made headlines by reducing the prison sentence of the son of a political ally from 16 to seven years for a 2008 murder.

Esteban Nunez, 21, was sentenced after being involved in a fight that killed Luis Santos, and Schwarzenegger said the reduction was justified since a court found that Nunez did not inflict the fatal knife wound.

Nunez is the son of former state Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, who is now a business partner of the governor’s chief political advisor at a California lobbying firm.

The family of the victim sharply condemned the action.

“We are totally outraged,” said Fred Santos, father of Luis Santos. “For the governor to wait until the last day in hopes it would fly under the radar is an absolute injustice.”

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