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Schwarzenegger Sworn In as California Governor - 2003-11-17

The actor-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger has been sworn in as California's 38th governor. The Republican candidate was elected October 7 in a recall election that removed Democrat Gray Davis from office. Mr. Schwarzenegger promises changes in the state capital, Sacramento.

With his children and in-laws looking on, the Austrian immigrant took the oath of office, given by Ronald George, California's chief justice.

Seventy-five hundred invited guests and 600 journalists crowded the grounds of the Sacramento capitol, but the gala balls that usually accompany the swearing-in were absent, in view of a fiscal crisis facing the state.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said that Tuesday, he will convene a special legislative session to tackle a huge deficit projected for next year. A non-partisan state government analyst puts the expected shortfall at well over $10 billion. But the new governor says Californians can solve the problem.

"There is a massive weight we must lift off our state," he said. "Alone, I cannot lift it, but together we can."

As his first official act, he repealed a tripling of a tax on automobiles enacted under his predecessor to help balance the budget. But the reversal will add four billion dollars to the state's deficit, and the new governor faces the task of finding alternative revenue.

He promises to reach across party lines in his search for solutions. His wife, Maria Shriver, held the bible as he took the oath of office. She is part of the Kennedy clan, the best-known family of Democrats in the country.

Four former governors were also on the podium, including Democrat Gray Davis, the man the voters removed last month from office.

Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn, also a Democrat, has worked with the new governor and likes what he hears from him. "I thought it was great that our new governor talked about working together to solve California's problems," he said. "And I was glad that he asked me, even though I'm a Democrat, to be part of his transition team, so I like that bipartisan spirit. If we can keep that going up here in Sacramento, wouldn't that be great?"

Mr. Schwarzenegger will have to deal with many constituencies with competing interests, from parents and teachers to labor unions and small business owners.

A businesswoman complained that the state is hostile to business. "People are moving out of California," she said. "What they've done is they've literally driven the business out." She says she thinks the new governor will reverse that.

Republican Congressman David Dreier, a key Schwarzenegger aide, cautions that California's problems cannot be solved easily. "It didn't take overnight to create the problems and it's going to take a long time to turn things around," he said.

The special session of state legislators will consider proposals for solving the budget crisis, and revisit a measure that Mr. Schwarzenegger has promised to reverse, a law signed by former Governor Davis granting illegal residents the right to get California drivers licenses. Critics say the embattled former governor supported the measure, after once opposing it, in an effort to win support from the state's Hispanic voters.