Controller says he won’t pay legislators

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

California lawmakers must forfeit their pay as of mid-June because the budget they passed last week -- which Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed less than 24 hours later -– was not balanced, the state controller said Tuesday.

Since last week, Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, has been pondering whether to pay lawmakers. They passed budget legislation on June 15, meeting their constitutional deadline for only the second time in a quarter-century, but their plan relied heavily on accounting schemes to paper over the state’s deficit. In his veto message, Brown said he could not sign such a plan.

Chiang, who issues the state’s paychecks, said Tuesday that it wasn’t sufficient to keep their pay coming.


Voters approved a law last fall that empowered legislators to pass a budget with a simple majority vote but also threatened to strip them of pay for every day the blueprint is late. The measure makes no mention of approving a balanced budget, but other laws on the books dictate that state budgets be balanced.

Chiang’s decision is widely expected to spur a lawsuit, and lawmakers had begun questioning his authority over their pay even before he made his decision.

Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Monday that docking lawmakers’ pay would be a “dangerous” precedent. Steinberg, a lawyer, said it would throw out of whack the balance of power between the branches of government.

Governors and finance officials should not have the power to control the pay of 120 independently elected lawmakers simply because they don’t like what those lawmakers produce, he said.