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The controller vs. the Legislature [The conversation]

June 23, 2011 |  4:00 pm


The Legislature’s math didn’t add up for state Controller John Chiang, who announced he will withhold lawmaker’s pay until they approve a budget he deems balanced.

Despite voter support for the provision in Proposition 25 that allows Chiang to withhold lawmakers’ paychecks, some are questioning whether he has overstepped his authority.  Others think forcing legislators to factor their financial well-being into their decision-making is a risky precedent to set. 

The Times editorial board took an unpopular stance with readers , warning that the poorly worded  Proposition 25, which also removed the two-thirds vote previously required to pass a budget, could cause problems down the road.

Never before has the controller had the power to determine whether the state's budget is balanced and take punitive action as a result. Imagine the mischief this could cause. Let's say a future governor and controller are rivals from different parties. The Legislature approves a budget on time and the governor signs it, but the controller decides it's out of balance and withholds lawmakers' paychecks until they redo the budget to suit his and his minority party's liking.

Political columnist George Skelton agreed that linking lawmaker’s pay with their political decisions was a risky precedent to set. It throws the separation of powers into a strange limbo ­-- especially for Republicans who may never have voted for a budget but might feel pressured to do so now that their pay is in question.

The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee  was in favor of making Republicans suffer along with Democrats for blocking tax extensions Friday, before Chiang’s decision.

The editorial boards of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News hope that this will increase pressure on Republicans to pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s initial budget proposal, with cuts and extended taxes. The Oakland Tribune’s editorial board wants lawmakers to compromise on a long-term budget.

Readers, though,  are saying that the  lawmakers have made their bed and that Chiang is rightly making them lie in it.

The bottom line?  Everyone agrees that Legislature needs to pass a gimmick-free, balanced budget.


Budget veto: Brown's stark choice

Charting the vetoed budget "solutions"

Too much control for California's controller

Is it time to reform the California initiative system?

--Samantha Schaefer

Photo: Controller John Chiang said the budget approved by Democrats spent more than it collected. "The numbers simply did not add up," he said. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

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