California stops paying its legislators. What happens now?
The decision by a California official to stop paying state legislators until they pass a balanced budget means Democrats are under increasing pressure to act.
California voters' pioneering attempt to force their lawmakers to pass a balanced, on-time budget is heaping new pressure on the state's Democratic legislators, analysts say.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
State Controller John Chiang decided Tuesday that voter-approved Proposition 25, passed last November, requires him to withhold the paychecks of state legislators for the foreseeable future, saying the budget passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature on June 15 was not balanced. Prop. 25 requires legislators to pass a balanced budget by June 15 or forfeit their pay for each budget-less day thereafter.
That leaves Democrats facing the same conundrum as before, though now without pay: Do they embrace a massive all-cuts budget to shore up the $9.6 billion deficit or compromise with Republicans on a plan to extend certain tax rates set to expire?
Republicans having shown no sign of budging for months: They will allow a special election on extending the tax rates only if Democrats allow spending-cap and pension-reform measures to appear on the ballot, too. Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) says he might release his own all-cuts budget proposal.
That leaves the ball in the Democrats' court, say analysts.
“The pressure is on the Democrats; they are in charge,” says Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book, in an e-mail. “They can have the tax election Governor Brown wants, but only if they are willing to put a spending cap and pension reform on the same ballot."
"Thus far, the public-employee unions have pressured the Democrats not to do this. But it is the only way to move the process along," he adds. "Either compromise with the Republicans over the tax election, or do a full-cuts budget. There is no other choice.”
"This does have the leverage the people wanted it to have,” he says. “Now [legislators] have to get back to the negotiating table, and what makes you respond quicker: The governor yelling at you, or no money for groceries? Feeding your family and putting gas in the car wins every time.”