State Controller John Chiang
10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, July 3, 2011
Word came late last week in the state Capitol that some Democratic lawmakers were jettisoning bills sponsored by Controller John Chiang.
The move was retaliation for Chiang’s June 21 decision to dock their pay for, in his view, failing to pass a balanced budget by the June 15 constitutional deadline. Rank-and-file legislators forfeited almost $5,000 in salary and living expenses.
At least one lawmaker, however, is sticking with her Chiang-sponsored legislation.
State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, is the author of a bill that would prevent board members of the state’s massive public pension funds — the Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teachers’ Retirement System — from accepting gifts of $50 or more from a single person doing business with the agencies.
The measure arose from the recent influence-peddling scandal involving former CalPERS board members and staff.
Friday, Negrete McLeod called it “a great bill.”
“Politics is one thing,” she said of the paycheck spat. “Policy is another.”
Even before Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed last week to have 13 counties secede and form a new state, he had strong words for Sacramento’s leaders.
He accused lawmakers of having their “heads in the sand” and not fully understanding the fiscal realities facing California.
Stone said lawmakers need to enact real reforms, such as reducing the number of state employees and decreasing pension benefits. Instead, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers produced a “quasi budget,” Stone said at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
When Stone proposed his secession plan on Thursday, he cited budget legislation that will divert $14 million in vehicle license fee revenue away from four new Riverside County cities. Stone represents two of them, Menifee and Wildomar, and is furious over the issue.
“I want to cancel all of our contracts with all our state lobbyists,” Stone said by telephone. “They have been completely ineffective.”
Speaking of Chiang, Democrats were not the only ones questioning the controller’s actions.
A group of Republican lawmakers last week sent a letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris asking her to determine whether Chiang had the authority to decide if a Legislature-approved budget is balanced and to cut their pay.
“We are concerned that this issue is likely to return in future budgets proposed by the state Legislature,” read the letter, whose signatories included Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
Assemblyman Brian Nestande, however, wants more Chiang, not less.
Like many lawmakers, Nestande issued a news release after Chiang announced his budget decision and legislative pay blockade.
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