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In California, Jerry Brown took over a state facing a $28 billion budget deficit and an unemployment rate of more than 12 percent.
"No more smoke and mirrors on the budget," Brown said in his inaugural address. "No empty promises."
Brown's no-frills inaugural ceremony featured a high school choir and hot dogs.
In Nevada, a state always calculating the odds, the new governor is Republican Brian Sandoval. His state has the nation's highest jobless rate at 14.4 percent.
"We live in a time when the odds seem to be against us," Sandoval said.
In New York, Andrew Cuomo became governor of a state with a $10 billion deficit, and he came in asking for a pay freeze for all state employees.
"My gray hairs are multiplying just thinking about what we have to do," Cuomo said.
Across the country, what governors are likely to have to do is cut spending.
It's one reason that in the 37 states that elected governors in the last election, 23 went to Republicans and only 14 to Democrats. But on Inauguration Day at least, no matter their party the governors sound pretty much the same.
"If you have to sum up the message that just about every governor is telling constituents it's this: This is going to hurt," said political science professor Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.
If there is any good news for the new governors, it's this: State tax revenues have climbed from $1.27 trillion in the first quarter of 2009 to $1.33 trillion in the last quarter of 2010, an increase of $61 billion, a sign of an improving economy.
In spite of the tough job ahead, the governors proclaim enthusiasm for the challenge.
"I take my oath proudly optimistic," Sandoval said.
"California, here I come, right back where I started from," Brown said.
Indeed, Brown was first elected California governor in 1975. His predecessor was a movie star, Ronald Reagan. This time, Brown follows another movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who posted his own Twitter video as he left the tough job of governor behind.