California lawmakers won't get paid without budget deal, controller says

The Sacramento BeeJune 3, 2011 

California's controller told lawmakers Thursday that he won't pay them if a budget deal isn't reached by midmonth, while Gov. Jerry Brown said talks are at a critical point.

Brown's negotiations with Republican lawmakers, though sputtering for months, appear to have picked up in recent weeks, with the rarely met constitutional deadline looming June 15.

"We are at a critical moment in the next 10 days," Brown told about 1,000 people Thursday morning at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento. "There's compromises and discussion going on."

State Controller John Chiang added pressure in a written statement by announcing that lawmakers will forfeit salaries and per diem payments if they fail to approve a balanced budget by the deadline.

Frustrated by chronically late budgets, Californians voted last year to strip lawmakers of their pay when the budget is overdue.

Chiang's announcement quieted speculation – and at least one legal opinion – that a budget bill passed in March could be sufficient for lawmakers to keep collecting pay. That bill closed only part of California's yawning budget deficit. Chiang, a Democrat, said in a written statement that 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."

He said, "I will enforce the voters' demand."

Chiang's move was the latest in the evolving budget row between Brown and legislative Republicans.

"If nothing else," said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University, "it will smoke out anyone who is opposed" to forfeiting their checks.

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