SACRAMENTO (AP) — In a tentative ruling, a trial judge said Tuesday that the state controller has no authority to block lawmakers' pay, as he did last summer after deciding they had failed to meet their constitutional deadline for passing a balanced budget.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge David Brown found that Controller John Chiang violated the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution
Using powers he thought he was given until voter-approved Proposition 25, Chiang blocked lawmakers' pay for 12 days last year after deciding they had failed to meet their constitutional June 15 deadline for passing a balanced budget. Lawmakers sued, arguing the controller overreached.
The judge agreed with lawmakers, who argued that Chiang does not have the authority to decide whether the Legislature's budget is balanced.
"A contrary result could threaten to undermine the Legislature's essential function," the ruling stated. "Even if the court agreed that defendant's assessment of the Legislature's June 15, 2011, budget bill was well reasoned, if defendant has the power to conduct such an assessment, the controller could subject the budget process to his or her demands."
The controller said he will review his options with the state attorney general.
"The court's tentative ruling flies in the face of the voters' will by allowing legislators to keep their salaries flowing by simply slapping the title 'budget act' on a sheet of paper by June 15," Chiang said in a statement. "Adopting an unbalanced and unfinanceable budget may ensure they are paid, but the people of California will be stuck with delayed payments and IOUs once that 'budget' falls apart."