Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown affirmed his decision Wednesday that Controller John Chiang cannot unilaterally block legislators' pay if they submit a budget they consider balanced.
The decision came after an hourlong hearing in which an attorney for lawmakers implied that Chiang had essentially appointed himself king and the controller's lawyer suggested lawmakers could just slap the word "budget" on a sandwich wrapper to get paid.
Chiang did not say Wednesday whether he would appeal.
Democratic legislative leaders who sued Chiang contend that the controller illegally took control of the budget process when he found their budget out of balance and blocked their pay for 12 days last June. The controller relied on a constitutional mandate for a balanced budget in concert with voter-approved Proposition 25, which requires that lawmakers submit a budget by June 15 to maintain their pay.
The controller believes that if he cannot judge the Legislature's budget for balance, then voter-approved Proposition 25 has no sheriff to ensure that lawmakers submit a legitimate, on-time budget by the June 15 deadline.
But Judge Brown told Chiang's lawyers, "If your position is correct, nobody is going to want to run for governor anymore. The big race in California is going to be for controller, because the controller is going to be the person. He or she will be the top power in the state."