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Our View: Chiang is on the side of Californians

Posted: June 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

For all of you out there who, over the years, have wanted to hold California politicians’ feet to the fire when it comes to making legislative progress, you have a champion in the form of state Controller John Chiang.

Chiang, a Democrat, ruled Tuesday that all 120 of our state lawmakers aren’t going to receive a dime until a balanced state budget is passed, as is the new rule of law since last November when California voters approved Proposition 25.

The proposition, often referred to as the “on-time budget act,” states that California lawmakers will have their pay withheld if they fail to pass a balanced budget by the June 15 deadline, and they won’t get paid until that happens. That applies to both salary and travel-expense costs.

And, while New York has a similar system, California’s measure is stricter — and better — because we don’t give retroactive pay. For every day beyond Tuesday, our state movers and shakers are losing money.

Talk about a great motivator for bipartisan compromise and cooperation.

While a budget was technically passed last week — and eventually vetoed — it wasn’t up to snuff.

According to an Associated Press story, Chiang, whose office issues paychecks, found the Democratic budget package did not meet the requirements for a balanced budget because portions were “miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished.” He said it committed the state to $89.8 billion in spending but provided only $87.9 billion in revenues, leaving a hole of $1.85 billion.
The gap came largely from underfunding education by $1.3 billion next year.

As far as accounting goes, that’s more than a small oversight.

We can’t help but think that legislators passed that particular budget only to meet the June 15 deadline to continue getting paid.

As one could imagine, Chiang’s decision was not warmly received in Sacramento, as many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are claiming that Chiang is grandstanding and playing petty politics to make a point or bolster his career.

And we certainly sympathize with them.

Can you imagine how jarring that must have been – to get a job only halfway accomplished and be held accountable for it? What nerve Chiang has in upholding a punishment for state legislators when they didn’t do what they’re paid to do. The audacity!

Residents all over the state are readying their violins.

However, Chiang stands firmly by his actions, saying that he’s simply following the law that California voters approved.
And we fully support his decision, 1.85 billion percent.

Except in rare recall elections, voters don’t often have much sway in Sacramento when lawmakers aren’t doing their jobs. So, to say that Proposition 25 has given us a sense of empowerment is an understatement.

So, kudos to Chiang for being honest enough, and such a stickler, that it now feels like our elected officials actually have to work for the people and not just against each other.

What a novel concept.


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