When California Controller John Chiang decided on Tuesday that
legislators would not be paid, he did so by connecting two provisions in the
Constitution – one approved in 2004 (Proposition 58) that required budgets
to be balanced – and the other approved
last year (Proposition 25) that prohibited legislative pay if the budget
is not passed by June 15.
Many lawmakers have taken issue with the controller’s decision,
and some have threatened to sue to get their pay reinstated.
The dispute over what constitutes "fiscal balance" has been with
us for a long time, even before Prop 58. California’s state budgeting
process has always been based on an agreement between the legislature
and the governor about what fiscal balance means in a given year, with the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) providing commentary.
That LAO commentary often deals with identifying
"threats" to fiscal health – sometimes through the courts – and the
ability of the administration to achieve savings in the adopted budget.