Budget bedlam: Controller not authorized to dock lawmakers' pay, judge says

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California’s controller had no authority to dock lawmakers’ pay during last year’s budget impasse, according to a tentative ruling issued Tuesday by a Sacramento superior court judge.

Last year, lawmakers each lost about $4,800 when Controller John Chiang withheld their pay. Chiang believes that a new state law (Proposition 25) requires him to block legislators' pay when they fail to enact a "balanced budget” by a constitutional deadline of June 15.

But lawmakers did pass a budget by the deadline, one they say was balanced.

The governor subsequently vetoed it, which prompted the controller to deem it unbalanced and forfeit the lawmakers’ pay last year.

In a tentative ruling, Judge David Brown calls the decision “erroneous” and says it violates the Separation of Powers Act.

In a written release, Controller Chiang says the ruling "flies in the face of the voters' will,” adding that Proposition 25 is “clear. No balanced, on-time budget — no pay for lawmakers.”

A hearing on the tentative ruling is set for 2 p.m. on Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court.

Correction: This post originally state that the controller forfeited the balance this year. Apologies.

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