Image: Calif. Controller John Chiang
Rich Pedroncelli  /  AP
Controller John Chiang discusses his decision to halt paychecks for all 120 state lawmakers after they failed to come up with a balanced budget by a deadline.
NBC, and news services
updated 6/21/2011 3:58:07 PM ET 2011-06-21T19:58:07

California state Controller John Chiang announced Tuesday he was halting pay for state lawmakers, saying their budget plan was not balanced and did not meet the state's requirement for them to be paid.

Chiang issued his decision after conducting an analysis of the budget package pushed through by Democratic lawmakers last week on a simple majority vote. Lawmakers said they believed that action allowed them to continue receiving paychecks, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the package, saying he didn't want to see billions more in borrowing or questionable maneuvers.

Chiang, a Democrat whose office issues paychecks, found the package did not meet the constitutional requirements for a balanced budget.

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

The decision is expected to spur a lawsuit, the Los Angeles Times said.

Under Proposition 25, a voter-passed initiative aimed at approving budgets on time, lawmakers don't get paid their salary or living expenses if they miss the deadline.

The June 15 budget fell $1.3 billion short in education funding, KNBC of Los Angeles reported.

Other problems centered on fees that were added as anticipated revenue stemming from bills that were never passed. These included $320 million in hospital fees, $103 million in taxes on managed care plans and $300 million in vehicle registration charges.

Each day California taxpayers save $48,603.50 by not paying lawmakers a salary and per diem. For lawmakers who earn $95,291 a year, that works out to $261 less for each day their salary is cut. For leaders of the Senate and Assembly who make $109,584, that works out to $300 per day.

Most lawmakers also lose out on a $162 per diem for travel and living expenses.

Lawmakers said they were disappointed by the controller's decision.

"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," Assembly Speaker John Perez said in a statement.

Currently the controller's office is sitting on one week's worth of per diem checks. The Senate is claiming about $40,000 owed to 37 senators, according to a copy of the claim released by the Senate. The Assembly has not released its claim for last week.

The leader of the Senate had warned Monday that for Chiang to decide whether lawmakers passed a balanced budget sets a bad example for the state's balance of power.

"I think it is a bad precedent ... for anybody in the executive branch to question the quality of a budget passed by the Legislature. Because to do so shifts the balance of powers in what is supposed to be coequal branches of government in a way that I think is dangerous," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said. staff contributed to this report from The Associated Press.


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