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California state controller plans to stop paying lawmakers

Controller John Chiang California lawmakers will start losing their pay in two weeks if they don't make further progress in balancing the budget, says state Controller John Chiang.

Chiang, the state's chief accountant, is citing a ballot measure voters approved in November in justifying his plan to dock legislators of their pay absent a balanced budget. His interpretation of the measure differs from that of legislative lawyers, who had previously opined that a budget bill lawmakers passed in March -- which still left the state with a multibillion-dollar shortfall -- met the conditions set by voters needed to keep salaries flowing once the Legislature's June 15 deadline for passing the budget arrives.

Chiang ultimately writes the checks, so lawmakers would have to sue him to keep getting paid if they blow the deadline without closing the shortfall.

"In passing Proposition 25 last November, voters clearly stated they expect their representatives to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve any budget shortfalls by the mandatory deadline, or be penalized," Chiang said in a statement. "I will enforce the voters' demand."

[Updated: 11:40 a.m.] Gov. Jerry Brown supported the controller's decision Thursday. "Gov. Jerry Brown reacted to the news after a promotion ceremony for National Guard leader David Baldwin at Mather Field. 

"I definitely think the budget should be on time," Brown said, "and if they don't, of course, they shouldn't get paid."

He added: "Maybe we'll get our budget. That's the purpose."

-- Evan Halper in Sacramento

Photo: State Controller John Chiang. Credit: Jonathan Alcorn / Bloomberg

 
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