California Lawmakers Won't Get Paid Until Budget Is Balanced

Jun 22, 2011

California State Controller John Chiang is being hailed as a hero by many in his state because he's ruled that legislators there won't be paid until they produce a budget plan that he determines is balanced.

His decision is costing those 120 lawmakers about $400 a day. Or, looked at another way, his decision is saving taxpayers about $48,000 a day while the lawmakers don't get their checks. And according to The Associated Press, "they won't be paid retroactively for the days the budget was late."

Now, accolades like these are piling up on Chiang's Facebook page:

-- "The best Controller in the nation!!!! We are grateful that the state of California has someone like you looking out for our interests, not theirs."

-- "You're the new hero of California. Thanks for doing your job."

-- "I am a Republican, and you now have my vote!"

The story, as the Los Angeles Times writes, is this: "Chiang has decided to deny California lawmakers their pay for failing to produce a truly balanced spending plan, infuriating legislative leaders but pumping new life into budget negotiations just 10 days before the start of the new fiscal year."

The Sacramento Bee adds that Chiang's action is "putting state budget negotiations into uncharted territory and upping the pressure on legislative leaders to strike a deal."

The controller says he has the authority to do this, the Times says, because of a law passed by voters last fall "requiring that legislators' pay be seized for every day that a budget is late. That law, which also enabled lawmakers to pass spending plans with a simple majority vote, does not specify that it be balanced, but Chiang noted that other laws do."

How far off from balancing the budget are the legislators? As the Times writes, "Chiang said the forfeiture is required because the budget that Democrats approved spent more — $1.85 billion more, in his analysis — than it collected in taxes and fees."

Chiang is a Democrat. So is Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed the budget. And Democrats control both the assembly and senate in California.

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