SACRAMENTO -- A state appeals court has ruled in favor of the California Legislature in its battle with State Controller
A Superior Court judge ruled in 2012 that Chiang lacked authority to take such action involving the budget, and a three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento agreed in a ruling published Friday.
"Where the Legislature is the entity acting indisputably within its fundamental constitutional jurisdiction to enact what it designates as a balanced budget, the Controller does not have audit authority to determine whether the budget bill is in fact balanced," the ruling said.
The state's voters passed a law in 2010 allowing the Legislature to approve state budgets on a simple majority instead of a two-thirds vote. The measure also said lawmakers must give up their salary and daily expenses for each day the state goes beyond the deadline without a budget.
Chiang withheld $583,000 in pay during a 12-day budget dispute in which he argued that the budget, passed on the day it was due, was not balanced.
The controller’s action was challenged in a lawsuit by Assembly Speaker
The appeals court agreed, finding: "The Controller is not a party to the enactment of the budget bill."
Lawmakers did not seek recovery of the back pay. A spokesman for Chiang said he did not know whether the case would be appealed further, but said the controller disagrees with the court decision.
"Today's ruling is a setback for important reforms voters made to California's budget process three years ago," Chiang said in a statement. "The ruling adopts the Legislature's argument that a budget is balanced if it – without any independent verification – says it is so."