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No pay for state legislators, says Controller

POSTED June 21, 2011 9:42 p.m.

The state budget approved by lawmakers but vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week was not balanced, State Controller John Chiang said Tuesday as he halted all pay for legislators.

Chiang, tasked with reviewing the budget under Propositions 25 and 58 to ensure the legislature passes a balanced budget on-time, said the budget contained $89.75 billion in spending, but only $87.9 billion in revenue – a $1.82 billion difference.

“My office’s careful review of the recently-passed budget found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished,” said Chiang. “The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the Governor.”

The disconnect came through an underfunding of education, Chiang said, more than $1.3 billion below the Proposition 98-mandated baseline. Chiang’s office also took issue with $320 million in hospital fees, $103 million in taxes on managed-care plans, and $300 million in vehicle registration charges included in the budget, but which had not been codified into law by separate bills required to actually collect those funds.

Chiang’s office did not consider the “honesty, legitimacy, or viability” of the since-vetoed budget, only whether revenues would meet or exceed planned expenditures.

“While the vetoed budget contains solutions of questionable achievability and some to which I am personally opposed, current law provides no authority for my office to second-guess them in my enforcement of Proposition 25,”said Chiang. “My job is not to substitute my policy judgment for that of the Legislature and the Governor, rather it is to be the honest-broker of the numbers.”

Following Chiang’s decision, all pay for legislators will be withheld, per the provisions of Proposition 25, approved by voters on Nov. 2, 2010. The measure lowered the vote threshold to pass a budget from two-thirds of legislators to a simple majority, while still requiring a two-thirds majority for tax increases.

The proposition also requires Chiang to discontinue all pay and living expenses for legislators from June 16 – the constitutional deadline to pass a budget – until “the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor.”

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D – Los Angeles) believes the Legislature met that requirement, despite Brown’s veto and the accounting errors identified by Chiang.

“While I respect the Controller’s efforts to render a decision within the guidelines of our Constitution, I believe he was wrong. I continue to maintain that the Legislature met our constitutional duties in passing the budget last week. We carried out our responsibility to pass a budget reflecting all the options available to close the deficit without new revenues and without cuts so deep as to cost the state jobs and jeopardize our economic recovery.

“The Controller is, in effect, allowing legislative Republicans to control the budget process and I believe that’s a very unfortunate outcome that is inconsistent with the intent of Proposition 25. In the coming days, we will be taking additional budget action informed by the Controller’s analysis, and consistent with the values of the budget we passed last week,” Pérez said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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