Stop Paying Brown and Chiang Too

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If California's legislators aren't going to be paid, Gov. Jerry Brown shouldn't receive a check either.

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Prop 25, a ballot initiative approved last year, requires the legislature to pass a budget on time or forfeit their pay.

Even though they passed a budget, the governor vetoed it and the document was so full of gimmicks that it is not really balanced, raised the question whether an imbalanced budget should count for these purposes.

The state controller John Chiang said no.

My view: there are enormous constitutional problems with permitting members of one branch of government  -- Chiang and Brown are in the executive branch --  to block the pay of another branch, the legislative.

This is precisely the sort of thing that happens in countries we think of as not free; for example, Russia, where Vladimir Putin has unilaterally stripped lawmakers of pay, perks and their jobs.

However, since Chiang bowed to public anger at the legislature and stopped paying them, he should do two other things too: stop paychecks to Brown and to himself as well. It's only reasonable. For a couple of reasons.

First, it's clear that, for all the gimmicks in the budget, no one would be calling for withholding pay to lawmakers if Brown had decided to sign the budget. The governor's veto precipitated this debate.

The governor shouldn't be able to impoverish the legislature unless, at the very least, he takes the financial hit himself.

Since Chiang is enabling the governor and punishing the legislature, he shold take the same punishment himself.

Second, the legislature has done more than Brown has on the budget.

Both the legislature and the governor prefer a budget plan that includes temporary taxes.

But Republicans have blocked such a plan. The legislature responded by doing the work of offering an alternative plan and passing it.

But Brown has refused -- despite many entreaties -- to offer his own alternative budget plan, presumably an "all-cuts" budget since he doesn't like the gimmicks the legislature used to avoid cuts.

In short, the legislature has done its job -- not a good job, but this is the California legislature. Brown has not.

If lawmakers are going to miss paychecks, the governor should too.

This story was updated after Chiang blocked lawmakers' pay on Tuesday.

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