Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, lived through another fiscal crisis when he was governor 30 years ago. The budget director, Ana Matosantos, 35, was barely able to do addition back then, but she has the experience that comes with having served under the last governor and through three years of California fiscal crises.
And now the two of them are at the center of what has become the critical battle in Mr. Brown's first few months on the job, as he tries to push through a budget that would almost certainly define much of his remaining years here. And for all of Mr. Brown's knowledge and self-assurance, it is this unlikely budget director -- a Republican appointee -- to whom the governor keeps turning to help him navigate this treacherous terrain.