Letter to John Chiang

June 17, 2011

The Honorable John Chiang,
Controller of California

Re: Prohibition of Legislative Salaries and Reimbursements for Travel and Living Expenses Pursuant to Proposition 25

Dear Controller Chiang:

This letter demands that you refuse to pay Legislators after June 15, 2011 as required by Article IV, Section 12(h) of the California Constitution. Your failure to withhold payment will subject your office to legal action in order to compel your compliance with the Constitution. Thus, this matter is of the utmost urgency and your immediate response is requested.

As you know, the voters recently enacted Proposition 25. Proposition 25 amended the Constitution to add, among other provisions, Section 12(h) to Article IV. That section provides, in part:

“. . . in any year in which the budget bill is not passed by the Legislature by midnight on June 15, there shall be no appropriation from the current budget or future budget to pay any salary or reimbursement for travel or living expenses for Members of the Legislature during any regular or special session for the period from midnight on June 15 until the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor.”

While the Legislature passed a “budget” prior to the deadline, it did not pass a “budget” as required by Article IV. As Controller, you know that the Legislature is required to pass a balanced budget (a budget where appropriations do not exceed anticipated revenue). Indeed, the balanced budget requirement is also found in the same section of the Constitution. Section 12(g) of Article IV provides:

“. . . the Legislature may not send to the Governor for consideration, nor may the Governor sign into law, a budget bill that would appropriate from the General Fund, for that fiscal year, a total amount that, when combined with all appropriations from the General Fund for that fiscal year made as of the date of the budget bill's passage, and the amount of any General Fund moneys transferred to the Budget Stabilization Account for that fiscal year pursuant to Section 20 of Article XVI, exceeds General Fund revenues for that fiscal year estimated as of the date of the budget bill's passage. That estimate of General Fund revenues shall be set forth in the budget bill passed by the Legislature.”

As indicated in Governor Brown’s veto message, the budget presented to him for approval was not “balanced.” The budget was not balanced because a significant amount of the anticipated revenue was based on illegal actions taken by the Legislature, principally violations of several other provisions of the Constitution. The most notable illegal action taken by the Legislature was its attempt to enact a sales tax increase by a simple majority vote, in complete disregard of Section 3 of Article XIIIA (amended by the voters last November when they approved Proposition 26).

If you pay Legislators for enacting a phony budget, then you have made Proposition 25’s provision prohibiting pay meaningless. We urge you to confirm your intent to withhold pay and force the Legislature to get back to work immediately.


Jon Coupal