SACRAMENTO — State Controller John Chiang did not have the authority to dock legislators' pay last summer after concluding that the budget they passed was not balanced, according to a tentative court ruling Tuesday.
The Legislature meets its obligation to pass a budget when it sends the governor a bill that, "on its face," proposes spending that does not exceed revenue, wrote Sacramento County Superior Court Judge David I. Brown. He will consider finalizing the ruling at a hearing Wednesday.
State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) sued Chiang in January. They asserted that he improperly interpreted the voter-approved law requiring that lawmakers' paychecks be withheld if they fail to pass the annual budget by June 15.
The Legislature approved a budget by the deadline last year, but Chiang said it was not fiscally sound.
"Wise or unwise,'' the judge wrote, Chiang's actions were "an unwarranted intrusion into the Legislature's budget deliberations.''
The lawmakers did not request restitution of the $583,000 in total pay forfeited during the 12-day budget dispute last year, saying they sued to establish an interpretation of the law for future budget decisions.