By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Regardless of Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto, state Sen. Noreen Evans said Thursday that lawmakers have met their obligation to pass a budget and deserve to be paid.
The Santa Rosa Democrat said Proposition 25 requires only that a spending plan be approved by June 15. It doesn’t address what the budget should contain or conclude it has to be acceptable to the governor.
She was among four North Coast legislators to respond to the governor’s historic act, including Assemblymen Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.
Evans questioned the authority of state Controller John Chiang, who said he would analyze the budget to see if lawmakers fulfilled their voter-mandated responsibilities.
“I don’t think he has the authority to inject himself into the budget process,” said Evans, a lawyer and former Santa Rosa city councilwoman. “He’s essentially making himself the 121st legislator. I don’t think that’s what voters wanted when they passed Prop. 25.”
The measure was proposed as a way to get a state budget adopted on time. It changed the two-thirds requirement for passage to a simple majority and made lawmakers and their staffs forfeit their pay if the budget was late.
Lawmakers get $95,291 per year in salary and $142 per day in living and travel expenses. Their next paychecks are expected June 30.
They passed the budget Wednesday and Brown vetoed it Thursday, citing accounting gimmicks.
In issuing the veto, Brown said lawmakers relied on “legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings.”
He said he would defer to Chiang on the question of lawmaker pay. Chiang, who in the run-up to budget approval insisted the spending plan be balanced, said he would examine final budget bills and determine whether legislators will get paid.
Evans’ North Coast peers were split.
Allen also said legislators did their job, delivering the best budget possible under the circumstances.
For the past six months, the governor has been unable to convince four Republicans to support an alternative — a fall referendum on higher sales, vehicle and income taxes.
“It’s the best we could do with the tools given to us,” Allen said. “We’re working very hard. We do deserve to get paid.”
Both Huffman and Leno said they were not concerned about giving up their salaries; passing a balanced budget was the important thing.
Huffman conceded the Legislature had used “time-honored but shameful budgeting gimmicks” of years past but he was doubtful of the governor’s ability to do better.
“If the governor has a strategy to deliver the Republicans, I’m in. I’m just skeptical there is any interest from them.”