CA controller halts lawmaker pay until “balanced” budget is passed

150 150 Gina Baleria

Days after lawmakers passed a budget that was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, California Controller John Chiang has deemed that lawmakers should not be paid, because their budget did not meet the requirements of Proposition 25.

Prop. 25, approved by voters last November, requires lawmakers to pass a balanced budget by the constitutional deadline, or else their pay will be forfeited until they do pass a balanced budget.

Lawmakers did get a budget passed by the June 15, 2011 deadline. However, Governor Brown promptly vetoed the bill, saying it “kicks the can down the road” yet again. Today, Chiang followed suit, calculating in his analysis that the budget passed last week is nearly $2 billion out of balance.

Kevin Yamamura with the Sacramento Bee reports:

In halting pay,  the Democratic controller exercised unprecedented authority, establishing a new role for his office under Propositions 25 and 58 to determine whether a legislative budget is “balanced.”

“My office’s careful review of the recently-passed budget found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished,” Chiang said in a statement. “The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the Governor.”

The controller said he determined that the Democratic budget spent $89.75 billion but only provided $87.9 billion in revenues, leaving a $1.85 billion imbalance.

In his determination, the controller highlighted one component of the budget that he believes ran afoul of the state’s Proposition 98 minimum guarantee for school funding. The Democrats’ budget underfunded K-12 schools and community colleges by $1.3 billion, Chiang said. John Mockler, an education consultant who wrote Proposition 98, said in an interview last week the Legislature would have to provide that money if courts intervene or at some future date if revenues come in as projected.

Chiang’s office said it is not possible to underfund schools without suspending Proposition 98, a politically risky vote that requires two-thirds support of the Legislature. Chiang also said the Legislature failed to pass the necessary bills to carry out hospital fees, a managed-care tax and a $12 hike in registration fees.

Brown’s veto had no effect on legislative pay. But questions raised by Brown and Treasurer Bill Lockyer about the plan’s viability appeared to force Chiang’s hand, and the controller reviewed the proposal to determine whether it was balanced.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they believe the controller’s decision was wrong, and a lawsuit may result from today’s decision. In the meantime, a budget remains elusive just days before the beginning of the new fiscal year.


Gina Baleria

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