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Chiang Also Cites Inadequate Funding for Education

State Controller Withholds Legislators Pay, Saying Last Week's Vetoed State Budget Did Not Balance

By Jeff Hudson - June 23, 2011

State Controller John Chiang ruled this week that last week’s state budget – approved by a simple majority by legislative Democrats on a party-line vote, and then vetoed the following by Gov. Jerry Brown (a fellow Democrat) – did not meet the requirements of Proposition 25, a measure approved by voters last year requiring a balanced budget be adopted by the Legislature by June 15.

Chiang responded by invoking another provision of Proposition 25, and ruling that legislators will now go without pay until a balanced budget is approved. “My office’s careful review of the recently-passed budget found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished,” Chiang told reporters. “The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the Governor.” Legislative staff can apply for loans to cover their expenses, but legislators themselves will not recover the lost income, according to a legislative staffer contacted by EdBrief.

In the meantime, the political reverberations of Brown’s budget veto last Thursday continued in Sacramento.  Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) expressed dismay at the Governor’s action, and said he will halt confirmation hearings for all of Brown’s political appointees.

Brown, for his part, indicated that he would be announcing a new budget proposal – one that would not need any Republican votes for passage, but would still be a budget that Brown would be willing to sign – before this week is out.

Reaction to Brown’s budget veto from education stakeholder groups was comparatively cordial, and concentrated on the hope that some sort of extension of current temporary income and sales taxes would be part of the budget package that is eventually approved. Martha Fluor, president of the California School Boards Association (CSBA), said

“CSBA recognizes the concerns that led Governor Brown to veto the budget sent to him by the Legislature. We agree that a balanced budget is critical to our economic recovery, and -- after billions of dollars of cuts to schools and other vital programs -- extending existing tax rates is the only viable path to a balanced budget and avoiding additional or destructive cuts to education. We urge all members of the Legislature to approve at least a 12-month extension of taxes now for the sake of our 6 million students."

Adonai Mack, a legislative advocate with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), posted an analysis of the situation on the ACSA website, concluding:

“It looks like Proposition 25 had an impact on the passage of a state budget. With the loss of pay pending before the state Legislature, the Assembly and Senate went to work to pass a state budget by the constitutional deadline. The state budget they passed was consistent with what was to be expected with the Democratic leadership failing to convince four Republicans (two in the Senate and two in the Assembly) to vote for an extension of revenues. Conversely, the Republican members’ list of demands was too much for the Democrats to stomach. Therefore, the Legislature once again put a gimmicky, magical budget together that closed the current budget deficit and sent it to the governor.”

“In turn, Governor Brown turned around and vetoed it within hours of its arrival on his desk. He said, in part, ‘the budget I have received is not a balanced solution. It continues big deficits for years to come and adds billions of dollars of new debt. It also contains legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings. Finally, it is not financeable and therefore will not allow us to meet our obligations as they occur. We can – and must – do better. A balanced budget is critical to our economic recovery.’ ”

Brown called on the Legislature to pass a budget that would allow the public to vote on his proposed tax extensions. He said that absent the extensions, schools and public safety would face deep cuts.

To read Adonai Mack’s entire article analyzing the vetoed budget, click here.

The California State PTA issued a statement saying:

California State PTA will be working with the Governor, members of the Legislature as well as our partners in the Education Coalition in the next two weeks to stress the importance of supporting a realistic, balanced approach by June 30. School districts must submit their 2011-12 balanced budgets by that date. Unless they have confidence in the level of funding that they will receive for the coming school year from the state, many will budget on a worst case scenario and will likely face additional cuts. These cuts hurt kids – with larger class sizes, shorter school years, reduced levels of academic support and more.

We continue to stress that the revenue generated from the temporary taxes is critical to maintaining the most basic level of education programs and services our children need. We will be evaluating the various budget proposals and options being discussed and will send additional information as it becomes available.

The California Teachers Association had little to say on the record about the Governor’s budget veto – the CTA is doubtless anxious not to be caught in any crossfire between the Governor and Democratic legislators. However, prior to the veto, CTA president David Sanchez issued a statement indicating that CTA was not entirely happy with the budget that Democratic legislators had approved. Sanchez said,

“While we genuinely appreciate their work, it’s frustrating to watch Democratic leaders have to scramble to put together a one-year budget patch because every Republican refused to extend current taxes in order to keep deeper cuts from California’s students and families."

“Passing this budget will help local school districts and colleges plan for the coming year, but fails to provide any real long-term solutions. Instead of using current revenues to balance the $12 billion in cuts already made this year to schools, colleges and other essential services, the Republicans’ inaction will result in our students returning to school in the fall with larger class sizes, fewer instruction days, fewer teachers, limited course offerings, higher tuition, and minimal support services."

“This is not the California we want for our students. It’s definitely not the California they deserve. And it’s certainly disappointing that some California lawmakers don’t value the importance of public education and fail to understand that investing in public education is an investment in our economy and our future.”

Editor's Note:  Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.