Gov. Jerry Brown took the oath of office Monday to begin his historic fourth term as California governor and outlined the "big ideas" he plans to pursue to "keep California ever golden and creative."
The 76-year-old Democrat, who held office from 1975 to 1983 before term limits and returned for a third term in 2011, followed the oath with a joint inauguration and state of the state address in the Assembly chamber at the state Capitol. He defeated Republican challenger Neel Kashkari in a landslide victory in November.
Full Text: Gov. Jerry Brown's Inaugural Address
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To date, Brown and Republican Earl Warren are the only California governors to serve three terms. Warren was elected to his third term in 1951 and resigned in 1953 to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Brown's father, Pat Brown, ran for a third term but was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1966.
"As I embark upon this unprecedented fourth term as governor, my thoughts turn to a time long ago when I first entered this chamber, Jan. 5, 1959, for my father’s inauguration," Brown said Monday. "I sat there in front of the rostrum, next to my 81-year-old grandmother, Ida Schuckman Brown, feeling awkward in my priestly black suit and Roman collar. My perspective was different then. The previous August, as a young Jesuit living in what was then a pre-Vatican II seminary, I had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. To me, the boisterous crowd, the applause, the worldliness of it all was jarring.
"That was 56 years ago, I've learned to like it since then."
The governor said the issues raised in his father's speech "bear eerie resemblance" to those currently facing the state. He listed discrimination, the quality of education, air pollution, water programs, overcrowded prisons and consumer protections as some of the challenges that echo through the decades.
Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, introduced her husband at Monday's ceremony. The Bible used in the inauguration was the same used during the couple's wedding and Brown's previous inaugurations for the officer of governor and attorney general.
"For all of us who work with him, it's exhausting. But it's so stimulating, that mind of his," Gust Brown said with her husband standing beside her at the podium.
The governor laid out a vision for the next four years that continues to build on fiscal restraint, paying down the state's so-called wall of debt and fighting climate change -- many principles he pledged during re-election. Nancy McFadden, the governor's executive secretary, told a crowd last month at a policy conference on California's future that keeping those priorities may not be bold but it remains difficult.
"If we stay on course -- and that's going to be no small feat -- that means not creating a lot of new," McFaddon said. "It means recognizing that the things we do in government cost even though they're not new and pretty. And that's really hard because there are endless needs in this state, there's endless imagination and there's 120 legislators."
But there is one project the governor supports with a big price tag. Brown's push for a $68 billion high-speed rail project remains controversial even as the California High-Speed Rail Authority commemorates the start of construction for the nation's first high-speed train system at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Fresno. Brown is scheduled to attend the ceremony Tuesday.
After receiving initial federal funding, the project faces opposition from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives but Brown has secured a source of ongoing state funds from the state's cap-and-trade pollution fees.
On Friday, Brown will release his budget proposal for the coming year, with major decisions expected on higher education funding and likely using a record influx of tax revenue to pay down debt service and retirement obligations.
"The state budget is balanced, more precariously than I would like, but balanced," Brown said Monday.
Brown hasn't revealed how he'll handle recent tensions with the University of California Board of Regents, which approved tuition increases as much as 5 percent each of the next five years unless the state approves more money for the 10-campus system.
"He's got some big issues to deal with," said San Jose State University political science Prof. Larry Gerston, adding that the longest running governor in the history of the state has to figure out answers to better the economy, the drought, high-speed rail and pension reform. "He's got a panoply of issues that are very serious for the state."
Brown’s boldest effort was on the environment. Over the next 15 years he wants to require that 50 percent of all energy use come from renewable sources —such as wind and solar – automobile gas consumption be reduced by 50 percent and buildings in the state become more energy efficient.
NBC4's Conan Nolan and NBC Bay Area's Vicky Nguyen contributed to this report.