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California Association of Professional Scientists v. Department of Finance et al

May 25, 2011


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Lloyd G. Connelly, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 34-2008-00014476-CU WM-GDS)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholson, J.



The state Department of Finance appeals from a judgment issuing a writ of mandate compelling it to take all feasible steps necessary to present salary adjustments approved by the state Department of Personnel Administration to the Legislature for possible appropriation. We reverse the judgment. We conclude the statutes on which the trial court relied impose no ministerial duties on the Department of Finance to perform the acts commanded by the writ.


Defendant Department of Personnel Administration (DPA) manages the nonmerit aspects of the state's personnel system. (Gov. Code, § 19815.2)*fn1 "In general, the DPA has jurisdiction over the state's financial relationship with its employees, including matters of salary, layoffs and nondisciplinary demotions. (§§ 19816, 19816.2, 19825, 19826.)" (Tirapelle v. Davis (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1317, 1322 (Tirapelle).)

The Legislature has delegated to DPA the authority to set salaries for state employees excluded from collective bargaining. (§§ 19825, 19826.) Employees excluded from collective bargaining include employees classified as supervisors. (§§ 3513, subd. (g), 3527, subd. (b).)

DPA must establish salaries for these employees based on the principle that similar salaries shall be paid for similar work. Section 19826 requires DPA to "establish and adjust salary ranges for each class of position in the state civil service subject to any merit limits contained in Article VII of the California Constitution. The salary range shall be based on the principle that like salaries shall be paid for comparable duties and responsibilities." (§ 19826, subd. (a).)

However, DPA's mandate to establish like salaries is conditioned in one respect. Section 19826 states DPA "shall make no adjustments that require expenditures in excess of existing appropriations that may be used for salary increase purposes." (§ 19826, subd. (a).)

Section 19826 thus imposes on DPA a mandatory duty to set salary ranges in parity with those for employees performing comparable duties and responsibilities in other state agencies "when that action can be taken without requiring expenditures in excess of current appropriations." (State Trial Attorneys' Assn. v. State of California (1976) 63 Cal.App.3d 298, 305 (State Trial Attorneys' Assn.).)

"The rule prohibiting expenditures in excess of available appropriations is fundamental and the Legislature has incorporated it into numerous statutory provisions concerning state employee compensation. (See, e.g., §§ 9610, 19834, 19835.) The rule is of constitutional origin. (Cal. Const., art. XVI, § 7.)" (Tirapelle, supra, 20 Cal.App.4th at p. 1326, fn. 13.)

Thus, any salary range increase approved by DPA that exceeds existing appropriations is not effective until the Legislature appropriates funds for it. "The power of appropriation resides exclusively in the Legislature." (Tirapelle, supra, 20 Cal.App.4th at p. 1321.) DPA's authority to set salaries "is quasi-legislative [citation], and is thus subject to the ultimate authority of the Legislature to reject or alter such exercise of authority through appropriate legislation." (Id. at p. 1323, fn. 8.)

Defendant Department of Finance is an integral participant in the appropriation process. "In our governmental scheme of things, the Department of Finance has general powers of supervision over all matters concerning the financial and business policies of the state. (§ 13070.) Every state agency or court for which an appropriation has been made must submit to the Department of Finance a complete and detailed budget setting forth all proposed expenditures and estimated revenues for the ensuing fiscal year. (§ 13320.) In the budget submitted to the Department of Finance, each agency must estimate and call attention to the sums necessary for employee compensation, including merit salary adjustments. (§ 19835.5.) Until enactment of the budget act containing appropriations for the fiscal year, the Department of Finance may revise, alter or amend the budget of any state agency. (§ 13322.) The Department of Finance then assists the Governor in preparing the budget which the state Constitution requires the Governor to submit to the Legislature. (§ 13337.)" (Tirapelle, supra, 20 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1320-1321, fn. omitted.)

This appeal arises from DPA approving increased salary ranges that had not been appropriated by the Legislature. At issue is the extent to which a court can order the Department of Finance (Finance) to seek an appropriation to implement the salary adjustments.


Plaintiff California Association of Professional Scientists (CAPS) is a supervisory employee organization. (ยง 3527, subd. (c).) It represents state employees who are ...

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