In a remarkable decision fraught with political peril, state Controller John Chiang stopped pay checks for California lawmakers until they approve a balanced budget. The unexpected move, which Chiang said he made on his own authority after reviewing the vetoed spending plan that legislators produced last week, raised constitutional issues and gave Gov. Brown some dramatic political cover.
From John Howard in Capitol Weekly: "State Controller John Chiang, citing his authority as the
state’s fiscal steward and an “honest broker of numbers,” has halted lawmakers’
pay, saying the budget they approved last week was $1.85 billion out whack and
incomplete. At least one angry Democrat said the move marked an
unconstitutional interference in the legislative branch of government."
"His decision, remarkable for its political and policy
implications, stemmed from his review of the spending plan that Brown
vetoed on June 16, a day after it was passed. His action, Chiang said,
stemmed from his own fiscal analysis and not the voters' desire to dock
legislators' pay for missing budget deadlines."
“My office’s careful review of the recently-passed budget
found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished,”
Chiang said in a written statement. “The numbers simply did not add up,
and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to
"Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said Chiang's decision
"sets a dangerous precedent. The impact on legislative members is real,
but it pales in comparison to the impact on school children, the elderly,
and the men and women who protect our safety. This decision will not change our
commitment and obligation to stand for the people we represent.”
In step two of the political tap dance, the Democratic governor has drafted a new budget that makes an end-run around Republicans. He said he'll present the new plan on Wednesday.
From Mike Marois and James Nash in Bloomberg: "Brown’s proposal comes as legislators have been forced to
forfeit pay for every day they fail to send a balanced budget to the governor
past a June 15 deadline. He vetoed a spending plan sent to him by Democrats
last week, saying it used legally doubtful maneuvers and one-time fixes."
“I’ll be sharing some very specific ideas tomorrow,”
Brown said to reporters as he left a meeting with Assembly Democrats yesterday.
“There will be several ideas I’ll propose.”
"Brown, a 73-year-old Democrat, and lawmakers are at an
impasse over how to bridge a $10 billion deficit. Without a budget, the biggest
issuer of municipal debt in the U.S. is unable to borrow on Wall Street to pay
bills when the fiscal year starts July 1."
"Brown’s plan would need only a simple majority to pass,
according to two legislative aides apprised of what the governor told
Democrats. The aides declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized
to speak publicly about the meetings."
Meanwhile, speaking of the budget, the fate of California's redevelopment agencies -- remember them? -- remained uncertain, despite months of wrangling. The governor wanted to abolish them, but a compromise remains on the table. Sean Maher in the Oakland Tribune has the story.
"The state Senate
and Assembly passed two bills June 15: The first would eliminate redevelopment
agencies -- there are about 400 statewide -- as soon as Oct. 1. The second would
allow the agencies to remain as long as they pay a share of the $1.7 billion
the state would save if they were eliminated entirely."
"The contributions range wildly in size across the state.
Berkeley would have to pay about $400,000, while Los Angeles' share would be
almost $100 million."
"Most East Bay cities would face payments between $4
million and $13 million. Those include Fremont at $9 million; Hayward at $4
million; Concord at $6.2 million, Alameda at $5.2 million; Emeryville at $13.2
million; and Richmond at $10.4 million."
"In Oakland, that share is estimated at almost $40
million, a massive hit as the city tries to close a $56 million deficit already
expected to decimate several public services."
Across the country, there is a surge in local and state recall elections, fueled in part by an expanding use of social media.
From the LA Times' Nichols Riccardi: "The number of mayors who
faced recalls doubled in 2010 from the previous year, the U.S. Conference of
Mayors said. Anti-tax activists even tried to recall two Democratic U.S.
senators last year, only to be shot down by courts, which noted that there are
no provisions for recalls in federal law."
"Joshua Spivak, who studies recalls and blogs about
them at recallelections.blogspot.com, said there had been only 20 attempted
recalls of state legislators in U.S. history. This year, 10 are already on the
ballot. Much of that is because of an unprecedented outbreak of recalls in
Wisconsin, where the newly elected Republican governor's proposal to limit the
power of unions led to recalls against six Republican state senators who voted
for the bill, and three Democrats who left
the state to try to stop its passage."
"Spivak said he thought recall attempts could
increase along the lines of their electoral sibling, ballot initiatives, which
once were rare but since the 1970s have been a fixture on election day. Recalls
may end up the same way, he said."
And from our "So You Think Your Health Insurance is Bad" file, comes the tale of the bank robber who took $1 -- and then waited for police to arrive. He said he wanted to go into custody so he could get medical care.
""(This is the) first time I've ever been in trouble
with the law,” James Verone said from the Gaston County Jail on Friday. “I'm
sort of a logical person and that was my logic. (That was) what I came up
"That is how Verone said he came to the decision to rob
the RBC bank on New Hope Road on Thursday, June 9."
"He didn’t have a gun and he handed the teller a rather
"The note said ‘This is a bank robbery. Please only
give me one dollar,’" Verone said."
"Then he did the strangest thing of all."
"I started to walk away from the teller, then I went
back and said, 'I'll be sitting right over there in the chair waiting for the
police," Verone said.