California Controller Appeals Ruling Over Lawmakers’ Pay

California Controller John Chiang appealed a judge’s decision that he overstepped his constitutional authority by withholding lawmakers’ pay in a budget dispute last year.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, representing Chiang, filed a notice of appeal today of the April 25 ruling from state judge David Brown in Sacramento.

Chiang docked the pay of the entire legislature last year, concluding an $86.6 billion general-fund spending plan it had passed on time was incomplete and built on faulty assumptions. He said he was acting under Proposition 25, passed by voters in 2010, which bars lawmakers from getting paid if they fail to pass a balanced budget on time.

The ruling “flies in the face of the voters’ will to hold lawmakers accountable for late, unbalanced budgets by docking their pay when they miss the constitutional deadline,” Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Chiang, said by e-mail.

State Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, both Democrats, sued Chiang in January, asking a judge to rule whether the elected controller can impose his judgment on whether a budget is balanced.

“We believe the judge’s ruling was very clear that this is fundamentally a question of the appropriate separation of powers with respect to the Legislature’s constitutional responsibility to pass the state budget, and are confident that our position will be affirmed by any future court decisions,” John Vigna, a spokesman for Perez, said in an e-mailed statement.

Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Steinberg, said there was “no ambiguity” in Brown’s ruling that Chiang overstepped his constitutional authority. “We are confident the court’s ruling will stand,” he said.

The case is Steinberg v. Chiang, 2012-00117584, California Superior Court (Sacramento).

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