Thursday is payday for state lawmakers. But this month’s check will be smaller. That’s because the State Controller docked their pay for nearly two weeks.
For most lawmakers, this paycheck will be almost five-thousand bucks lighter than usual.
“I’m a working class, single adoptive parent. Took a pay cut quite frankly to come serve my state and it’s very hard,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell. Mitchell had a tough chat with her ten-year-old son about the reality of the pay cut. She says it didn’t affect any of her voting decisions, but, “it feels a little like extortion and I think that’s unfortunate. I really, really do.”
California voters approved the new rule last year. Proposition 25 says lawmakers permanently forfeit their pay every day after June 15th that they haven’t passed a budget. Democrats did pas a spending plan that day but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it and the State Controller said it wasn’t balanced. Hence, the pay cut.
“I call this the paycheck protection budget act of 2011,” said Republican Senator Bob Huff. He says the minority party has little control since Prop. 25 lets Democrats pass a budget on their own. He says the law is a real motivator.
“There’s only so many days you can go without getting paid and whether there’s a legal issue with that or not, that’s the reality we’re living right now, and so, you know, there’s intense pressure to make a decision. Whether it’s right or wrong, just make it and get out of town,” said Huff.
GOP Senate Leader Bob Dutton is less cynical than his colleague, saying, “there’s a constitutional obligation to have a budget done by July 1 and I would like to think–I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt–that that’s what they’re focusing on and it isn’t just to ensure that they get a paycheck.”
California’s had a budget by the start of the new fiscal year only five other times over the past two decades.