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Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, back from a post-election vacation, met this afternoon with state finance officials, and his staff invited about two dozen reporters and photographers over to document the event.

It was supposed to be a photo-only affair, and after a few minutes of photographs Sterling Clifford, Brown's spokesman, said, "I think we're ready to file everyone back out."

But the questions started coming, and Brown, the 72-year-old former governor, could hardly resist.

"The biggest challenge is just starting the work, which I have," Brown said when asked about the challenges he faces. "Day by day, keep chipping away."

Brown called the budget deficit, estimated to be $25.4 billion, an "enormous, unprecedented gap," and he said it is "fine" that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the lame duck Republican, is calling a special budget session of the Legislature for Dec. 6.

"We have one governor at a time, and I think it's important that each one, while they're at their post, do everything they can do deal with the state's problems," Brown, the attorney general, said in a conference room at the Department of Justice, where he is staging some transition operations.

Asked how many of Schwarzenegger's appointees he might retain, Brown said, "This is Day 1. I'm not going to decide anything until I get a better understanding of what the possibilities are."

Clifford was trying to move the press out when a reporter asked Brown to confirm his vacation was in Arizona.

"We're going to go out the door now," Clifford said. "We're going to go out this way."

Regarding his vacation, Brown said, "I have my private time and my public time."

Brown's campaign manager, Steve Glazer, was sitting beside him.

"Guys, we won't do photo avails again," he said. "Come on."

The press left. Brown remained behind with Glazer, adviser Tom Quinn and education consultant John Mockler, who is advising Brown.

The finance officials in the room included education budget analyst Jeannie Oropeza and the department's Fred Klass.

Clifford said Brown conducted meetings this morning and will have more into the evening. He said they are with lawmakers, administration officials and people outside government, but he declined to identify them.




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