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Controller halts pay for California lawmakers

Ted and Beth Gaines taking financial hit but express budget-balance hopefulness
By: The Associated Press and Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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California’s controller took the rare step Tuesday of halting paychecks for all 120 state lawmakers after he determined they failed to meet a voter-approved requirement aimed at getting the Legislature to approve balanced budgets on time. Controller John Chiang said he reviewed the budget approved last week by Democrats on a simple majority vote and determined it was not balanced. Chiang, a Democrat, said lawmakers therefore did not meet the requirement for getting paid under Proposition 25, which voters approved in November. Lawmakers can start receiving their salaries and expenses again once they pass a balanced budget. But they will not be paid retroactively for the days the budget was late. For husband and wife, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, Chiang’s announcement is a double hit to the family budget that amounts to just more than $500 a day in lost income between them. Both are paid $98,000 annually. But Ted Gaines said he feels that the cut, retroactive to June 15, “comes with the job of doing the people’s work.” Ted Gaines said that Chiang’s stance, which mirror’s Gov. Jerry Brown’s will result in work to produce a finer focus on a more balanced budget and, ultimately, lead to more time to find ways of putting California’s jobless back to work. Beth Gaines said voters sent a clear message last November. “They don’t want smoke and mirrors budgeting and should a state budget not be passed on time, legislators shouldn’t receive a paycheck,” she said. “I wholeheartedly agree and think we need to continue to work every day on a responsible, structurally balanced budget Californians want and deserve.” Wally Reemelin, president of the League of Placer County Taxpayers, said the absence of a paycheck will “hold their feet to the fire.” “Chiang’s shown he’s on the side of the taxpayers,” Reemelin said. “And I applaud Gov. Brown for vetoing the new budget proposal (that Chiang rejected as not balanced). They’ve been running California for 15 to 20 years with gimmicks and now they finally have to understand reality.” The decision sparked sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers and could be challenged in court. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said Chiang decided to withhold pay for political reasons. “I halted a fulfilling private sector career path to enter public service. I now have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won’t be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense,” Gatto said. Under Prop. 25, lawmakers don’t get their salary or living expenses if they miss their budget deadline of June 15 each year. The measure gives the state controller the authority to judge whether revenues matched or exceeded state spending.