The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is considering jumping into the legal fray over the question of whether Controller John Chiang can resist Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed order to pay public employees the minimum wage if no budget is in place.

Lawyers at the Jarvis Association feel the group has a good understanding of what can and cannot be paid under state law. The law was interpreted in a case handled by Jarvis attorneys, White v. Davis, which took five years to run through the courts with a final decision by the California Supreme Court in 2003.

Controller Chiang said his constitutional powers allow him to ignore the order from the governor. Schwarzenegger has yet to sign the order, but his office said he plans to do so on Thursday if no budget agreement is reached, meaning there is no legal basis for making appropriations. The governor is trying to force the legislature to make a budget deal.

The legislature’s legal counsel, Diane Boyer-Vine, backed Chiang with an opinion that argued court decisions indicate the controller can wield power independent of the governor.

However, Jarvis attorneys believe the court decision in White v. Davis provides stiff language that prevents the Controller from making any thing other than specified payments. The White v. Davis decision said that in a stalemate on the budget, workers have to be paid the federal minimum wage with their checks made whole after the budget is in place.

The governor’s office has not said if they will challenge Controller Chiang in court if he resists the governor’s order. The Jarvis lawyers have not made any final decisions on whether they would move forward with a lawsuit, but are watching closely to see how the situation unfolds.