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Word of Controller John Chiang's decision to withhold legislative pay until passage of a balanced budget spread through the Capitol and state offices like wildfire Tuesday, sparking mixed reaction:

Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga:

"I didn't come up here for the pay....I think he's got to do what he's got to do."

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo:

"Can I still pay my bills? Yes. Do I know of legislators that will experience a hardship? Yes. I don't want to see our Legislature get to a point where you either have to be retired or independently wealthy to serve this body."

Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana:

"The majority, most of us legislators here, work for a living - we're not millionaires. So it's going to be a challenge. But you know what? The voters of the state of California said to pass a balanced budget, and if the experts say the budget is not balanced, we need to go back and work it some more."

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino:

"I'm going to exist OK. I always save my money ... It's too bad (Chiang) got embroiled in this. I guess he has to do what he has to do - and we have to do what we have to do."

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks:

"The people have made it clear, in Proposition 25, that they don't want us to get paid unless we come up with a real budget. I don't think they envisioned a sham budget. They didn't envision a budget with five illegal taxes in it. They want a real budget.

"The people who are complaining about Proposition 25 are the people who pushed to pass it."

Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach

"The people asked that we have an incentive to do what they want which is to pass a balanced budget, and I think what this does is tell us, we need to get to work and get this done. The governor was very clear, I don't know all the legal (issues), I'm not a lawyer, so I can't really say it was the right decision, but between the controller and the governor it's a pretty clear message that we need to get to work. That's what the people are asking."

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale:

"I think this is going to put pressure on all of us to get something done."

Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello:

"We are basically being held hostage to vote for the governor's version of the budget. It's a perfect opportunity for political grandstanding for the controller and treasurer. We've done our job and given a balanced budget. The controller and treasurer have approved of them in past. They've never had a problem before. We are being treated like children and punished for politics."

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills:

"The Controller is acting without clear legal authority. He has confused having the responsibility to cut checks with having the authority to be a judge and jury on the budget. He signs our paychecks but Proposition 25 does not make him our boss - that role is reserved for the people who elected us. ... If his action stands, it will have grave implications on future budgets. His action suggests that we are not a co-equal, independent branch of government vested with the constitutional authority to craft the budget. And, that's not what the people voted for when they passed Proposition 25."

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles:

"Our state government right now reminds me of a troop of boys lost in the wilderness. The goal is to get back to civilization, but the Governor seems hell-bent on forcing four people to take his chosen path, while John Chiang just wants to sit there and beat up on the unpopular kids. It's always been an easy move to bash the disliked - but the truth is that such demagoguery is rapidly becoming cliché, and does nothing to move the state forward. ... I halted a fulfilling private sector career path to enter public service. I now have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won't be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense. California has officially degenerated into a Banana Republic, with one branch of government withholding the pay of another. I wonder if the Controller plans on withholding the pay of judges if he disagrees with one of their decisions."

Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo

"I applaud Controller Chiang on this difficult decision. I authored SCA 12 to clarify his constitutional authority and duty to certify when a budget is or is not balanced. Government is a system of checks balances. Utilizing the Controller's office to finally put a halt to the budget games will return accountability to our budgeting process and force the legislature to do its job honestly."

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego:

"I support Controller Chiang's decision to withhold pay for legislators until we can pass a balanced budget that addresses long-term, structural fixes that are sorely needed. When regular Californians don't do their job, they don't get paid. The legislature is clearly not doing its job, and this should refocus us on creating good-paying jobs for Californians, developing innovative solutions that work and moving California forward."

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa

"The Controller has never before had a role in crafting the budget. Through his action today, he has inserted himself into the legislative process and precipitated a constitutional crisis, one where the balance of powers in our constitutional form of government has shifted considerably and the separation between the Legislative and the Executive branches of state government has been breached. Must future legislatures submit their budget proposals to the State Controller to obtain his approval before passage? Additionally, there is no certainty regarding the limits on the Controller's powers--for example, when must he make his determination? Controller Chiang delayed a week before deciding the budget did not meet with his approval. By inserting himself into the budgeting process and substituting his judgment for the Legislature's, the State Controller has set a dangerous legal precedent."

Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert:

"Today's action by the State Controller shows that the budget passed by his fellow Democrats on a majority vote was not balanced and needs serious work. His quick decision proves that his arguments in opposing my Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13 that would require him to determine if a budget is balanced are false. Far from requiring more staff to conduct a budget analysis, the Controller was able to render his decision with existing resources. The Legislature should pass ACA 13 to ensure that the Controller analyzes future budgets to determine if they are balanced."

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point

"The Legislature's job is to craft and pass a budget that works, not a document that merely gets enough votes to pass. I have been and remain ready and willing to help the Democrat majority leadership and members to fulfill the commitment they made to the people with Prop 25, the majority vote, on-time budget, with or without pay."

Editor's Note: This post was updated to reflect that Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is a Republican, not a Democrat. Updated at 4:30 p.m. Paresh Dave, Torey Van Oot and Kevin Yamamura contributed to this report.


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