John Chiang: Parliamentarian?

Who gave Controller John Chiang the right to determine whether the legislature has done its job on the state budget, anyway?

No one.

In the bedlam following "passage" by the legislature and an almost instant veto by Governor Jerry Brown, Chiang decided to be the official interpreter of Proposition 25, "The On Time Budget Act" passed by the voters last November.

According to the new law, if legislators fail to pass a budget by June 15, they may not be paid until they fulfill their responsibility.

Fair enough, buy why is Chiang the authority?

The (wrong-headed) thinking is that since Chiang signs pay checks, he would interpret the intent associated with the proposition.

That's a leap beyond belief.

It's like saying since a DMV official grades your test, he or she should decide whether the test is fair.

Nowhere does the proposition state that the controller assumes responsibility for determining the budget's credibility.

One would think that others would be more likely to interpret new law to determine whether Chiang should sign the pay checks.

To begin with, why wouldn't the Attorney General interpret the law's meaning? After all, she is the state's chief law enforcement officer.

All this is important because of the question of whether the legislature has really done its job.

The budget was a sham, and everyone knew it, including the Democrats who were frustrated because of Republican obstructionism.

With the June 15th deadline upon them, Democrats put together a document that was unbalanced and filled with unrealistic assumptions about everything from looming court decisions to unlikely federal assistance for federal programs.

In order to meet a deadline lawmakers approved a budget approaching fraud.  

Even so, why should the Controller decide that legislators shouldn't be paid?

Chiang says he merely did the math. But Proposition 25 was about passing a budget, not  balancing it.

So, now what?

Expect legislators to sue Chiang for acting without authority, and expect a law suit on the Proposition's constitutionality, both of which stand excellent chances of prevailing.

Most of all, expect a long drawn-out effort by the legislature to resolve the budget issues.

If this sounds familiar, well, that's because it is.

Photo illustration by Olsen Ebright

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