SACRAMENTO – State Controller Kathleen Connell canceled a $2 million payroll Friday for 2,000 legislative employees as the state budget stalemate reached its 13th day.
Checks also stop next week for vendors who do business with the state, Connell said. Legislators, unable to pass a budget by a July 1 deadline, will have their pay stopped on July 31. The governor and other elected state officers, including Connell, will also find themselves docked at the end of the month.
Connell said state law prevents her from writing payroll checks to these groups without a state budget. Legislative staffers are paid twice a month while the governor and legislators are paid monthly.
“Each day the budget stalemate continues, more people, businesses and local programs are affected,” Connell said.
Friday marked the fourth time since 1995 that Connell has withheld employee checks over a budget showdown. The legislature has passed only three budgets by July 1 since 1990.
At least 262,0000 state employees will continue to be paid.
Gov. Gray Davis, who signed the first two budgets of his administration on time, attacked Connell’s announcement as a “publicity stunt.”
Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio said, “It’s unfortunate that the state controller wants to create a sideshow when she should be helping the governor and the Legislature come to agreement on a budget.”
A Republican legislative minority, opposing a planned quarter-cent sales tax hike this January, is blocking the budget in the state Assembly and Senate. The tax adopted in 1991 goes into effect automatically when state revenues fall. Republicans want to ax the tax hike permanently.
Democrats say it will raise $1.8 billion desperately needed during the next two years if the economy continues to slow.
Despite the standoff, Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, scheduled a session on the budget for 4 p.m. Saturday.
Jamie Fisfis, spokesman for Assembly Republicans, scoffed at Hertzberg’s plan, saying, “The speaker’s going to put us through a bunch of budget drills. We’d be better off negotiating.”
The Senate is off until 3 p.m. Monday.
Efforts all week to find a solution to the political entanglement proved unsuccessful. Davis met Wednesday with four legislative leaders to break the impasse. His office also held numerous conference calls where school, health, law enforcement officials argued to pass the budget.
Despite Connell’s announcement Friday, most legislative staffers will not suffer any sudden lack of cash.