If the key to a successful business is meeting deadlines with quality work, then an employee who is unable to do so should experience some sort of penalty. It makes logical sense but apparently, in the case of the California legislature, meeting deadlines and producing quality work can be mutually exclusive.

In October 2010, the state legislature passed a budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. It was however, 100 days past deadline, costing taxpayers an estimated tens of millions of dollars each day. The estimate is based on unpaid bills and interest accruing on those bills, plus a series of other factors. Though that was the latest it had ever been in 24 years, being late was nothing new. In fact, legislators had been unable to pass a budget on time 23 times in the previous 24 years. In November 2010, California voters, tired of excuses and costly impasses, passed Proposition 25, which required legislators to pass a budget on time or their pay would be suspended. To be fair, the law also changed the requirement for passing a budget from a two-thirds majority vote to a simple majority, making it easier to come to an agreement versus waiting on a handful of stubborn legislators who were holding out.

Proposition 25 seemed to constitute a reasonable expectation until 2011. Though the budget was passed on time, it was not balanced. State Controller John Chiang withheld lawmakers’ pay until they passed a balanced budget, which totaled $583,000 in pay for the 12-day delay. State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, went to court to challenge Chiang’s authority to dock pay when a budget had been passed on time. The judge ruled in the legislators’ favor, saying the legislature had fulfilled its obligation and could continue being paid once it sent the governor a bill whose proposed spending, “on its face,” did not exceed revenue. On July 2, Chiang appealed the court decision. According to Jacob Roper, a spokesman for Chiang, “The court’s decision did not reflect the will of the voters who passed Proposition 25. We believe there’s a strong case to be made on appeal.”

While we would never testify to understanding the intricacies of passing a multibillion-dollar budget, there has to be some accountability. Hence, Proposition 25. For too long, the only penalty lawmakers have had to fear is being voted out of office, and that’s a mixed bag as campaigns tend to smear the facts and voters are often left in the dark about the truth of such problems and who should be held responsible. We support Chiang in his endeavor and stand firm that meeting deadlines must be coupled with quality work and that sacrificing one obligation shouldn’t be justified by fulfilling another.