Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
January 24, 2014

State Controller John Chiang lacks the authority to determine whether a budget approved by the California Legislature is balanced, a court ruled, handing another legal victory to lawmakers whose pay he docked amid a standoff in 2011.

Chiang based his denial of legislative pay on a finding that lawmakers failed to pass a balanced state budget in an attempt to get in under a voter-approved pay deadline. The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento unanimously upheld a 2012 lower court decision, concluding that lawmakers must merely enact a budget bill in which revenue estimates for the coming year exceed the total of existing appropriations.

“At that point, the Controller does not have the authority to make an independent assessment that the budget bill is not in fact balanced because it relies on revenues not yet authorized in existing law (or in enrolled legislation) and on that basis withhold the salaries of legislators as a penalty for failing to enact a timely budget,” the court said in its decision published Friday.

Chiang called the ruling a setback for important reforms voters made to the budget process three years ago.

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