California State Controller John Chiang

PolitiCal
On politics in the Golden State
January 24, 2012 | 1:51 pm

Democratic lawmakers sued state Controller John Chiang on Tuesday seeking limits on the controller’s right to withhold lawmakers’ pay during a budget stalemate.

Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a joint statement Tuesday that the action is necessary to “clarify the constitutional role of the California state controller,’’ who withheld pay from lawmakers last year after determining they had not approved a balanced budget on time.

Under a law passed by voters in 2010, the controller has the right to dock lawmakers’ pay if a budget is not passed by the June 15 constitutional deadline. Last year, Democratic legislators approved a spending plan before the required date (no Republicans voted for it), but Chiang decided to withhold legislators’ paychecks anyway, arguing that the budget they passed was nearly $2 billion out of balance.

Democrats accused the controller of engaging in an illegal power grab, saying he had no authority to withhold their pay -– about $400 for each day after June 15 without a budget in place.

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