Sacramento politicians' pay withheld after failing to pass new budget

If politicians in Sacramento were not convinced before that the financial crisis facing California is grave, they surely did by yesterday after waking up to discover that their pay had been frozen as a penalty for failing to pass a new and balanced budget before a 15 June deadline.

John Chiang, the state Controller who oversees the purse-strings, has ordered that all pay for members of the legislature be withheld pending their passing a budget where revenues and spending actually match. He contends a budget already passed by the Democrat majority is unacceptable because it is not balanced.

The stand-off with the lawmakers is only the latest episode in the long saga of California's budget crisis. When Governor Jerry Brown took office in January, the state faced a crippling $26bn (£16bn) deficit through July of next year. Huge cuts in public spending already agreed, coupled with a slight pick-up in revenues, has reduced that gap to $10bn.

Democrat members of the legislature in particular are livid with the Controller for cutting off their pay. "John Chiang just wants to sit there and beat up on the unpopular kids," Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat, said. "I now have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won't be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense."