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Abel Maldonado may no longer be lieutenant governor or a senator. But after a little break from the public light, he plans to join the fight against a tax extension ballot measure proposed today by Gov. Jerry Brown, Maldonado said.

The Republican former lieutenant governor attended this afternoon's swearing-in ceremony for his successor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who beat Maldonado for the office in November.

Maldonado tirelessly worked the room after Newsom's 23-minute speech, shaking hands and slapping backs. At one point, he playfully slapped Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, on the cheek.

When asked by The Bee what his future held, Maldonado responded, "I'm going home. I'm going back to the ranch," referring to his family's ranch in Santa Maria.

Maldonado then said about his political plans, "I'm going to work against this tax increase. We told the people of California that it was temporary, and it was going to be temporary. And that if they allowed us a temporary tax, we were going to make some decisions. And taxes should be the last and final emergency resort."

Maldonado voted in February 2009 for the temporary tax hikes, which are set to expire this July. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Maldonado as lieutenant governor after the elected Lt. Gov. John Garamendi won a congressional seat in November 2009.

When asked how he was going to fight the tax extension, Maldonado said, "I'm going to be very vocal about it. Because when I did the tax increase, we were shutting down construction jobs the very next day. We were sending IOUs as tax refunds to Californian taxpayers and we had a $60 billion deficit. We don't have that today, so this notion of going out asking for more taxes is actually kicking the can down the road."

Newsom, a Democrat who just stepped down as San Francisco mayor, struck a more cooperative tone in his remarks after taking the oath of office. He said he would focus on job creation and help Brown any way he could.

Attending the ceremony were former Assembly Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who launched Newsom's career after appointing him to a San Francisco commission, incoming San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Garamendi, among others in the Senate chamber.

Newsom said he would make the most of his office's limited responsibilities, which include serving as chairman of the state Commission for Economic Development.

"I come here with a lot of ideas," Newsom said, "a foundational philosophy and principle that states are laboratories of democracy but cities and counties are laboratories of innovation. And that we got to unleash that innovative spirit."

He told reporters later that he had concerns about Brown's plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies.

"It's at our peril that we eliminate all, but the debate's an important one," Newsom said. "And I want to underscore that. There are some real abuses on redevelopment where they're not doing what they should be, and so it's a very legitimate debate. And that's why I honor (Brown's) willingness to put it up, but I also look forward to honoring his willingness to keep an open mind about the ultimate outcome."


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