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Controller appeals ruling over pay

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POSTED July 2, 2012 8:21 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — The state controller announced Monday that he is appealing a judge's decision that prevents him from blocking lawmakers' pay if they fail to pass a balanced budget on time.

Controller John Chiang filed an appeal notice in Sacramento County Superior Court because the decision "effectively gutted a key provision of Proposition 25," according to Chiang's spokeswoman, Hallye Jordan. California voters passed Proposition 25 in 2010 to block lawmakers' pay if they didn't meet a budget deadline.

Chiang argued he was acting within his power when he determined the budget adopted by lawmakers last year was not balanced. He froze their pay for 12 days.

Superior Court Judge David Brown ruled in April that Chiang violated the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution.

Rank-and-file lawmakers have a base annual salary of $95,291 but can make about $30,000 more through per diem payments. They lost an average of $4,800 in salary and per diem pay before they passed a budget that Chiang said was balanced.

Their paychecks resumed after they passed a new budget, but Democratic leaders filed a lawsuit in January, arguing the controller overreached.

The initiative never gave the state controller explicit authority to determine whether a budget was balanced. But Democrats had pitched Proposition 25 to voters as an accountability measure that would stop lawmakers from getting paid if they don't pass a balanced budget on time.

Lawmakers had argued that they are already prevented from passing bogus budgets by the governor's veto authority.

Their pay was not impacted this year. The Legislature passed a budget by their June 15 deadline and the governor signed the $91.3 billion spending plan last month.


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