Controller of the State of California John Chiang
It is breathtaking -- which is to say, breathtakingly scary -- to watch media outlets and politicians of both political parties praise Controller John Chiang.
Chiang's decision to deny paychecks to legislators because of his view that last week's budget was unbalanced violates all kinds of basic checks and balances.
But he's gotten away with it because no one likes the legislature and because his action is based on a gimmicky budget that a governor of his own party had vetoed.
If you want to understand how dangerous this decision is, imagine a controller making the same decision in a different context.
Let's imagine a budget season in which a Democratic legislature produces a budget and a Democratic governor signs it.
But this time, the controller is a Republican.
And this Republican uses the power under the Chiang precedent to step in and declare: "This budget is unbalanced in my view. So I'm not going to pay the legislature."
And the controller would have some factual basis for the claim, given that budgets are full of predictions -- and in California, always a few gimmicks.
Would media outlets praise that controller? Would politicians on both sides be saying things about the controller's courage?
The question answers itself.
Which is why Chiang's decision can't be permitted to stand.