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The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) has provided fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature for 75 years. It is known for its fiscal and programmatic expertise and nonpartisan analyses of the state budget. The office serves as the "eyes and ears" for the Legislature to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost efficient and effective manner.
The office is overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), a 16-member bipartisan committee. Currently, the office has a staff of 43 analysts and approximately 13 support staff. The analytical staff cover several budget and policy areas: Criminal Justice, State Finance, Education (including K-12 and Higher Education), Health and Human Services, Natural Resources and Environment, General Government (including Local Government), Transportation, and Capital Outlay and Infrastructure.
Historically, one of the most important responsibilities of the LAO has been to analyze the annual Governor's budget. In recent years, the office has presented a series of analyses from the beginning to the end of the budget process on overarching fiscal issues as well as specific departmental budget proposals and offered its recommendations for legislative action. In order to provide the Legislature with timely advice on these matters, the LAO has published its budget comments and advice in the form of separate written reports, handouts for hearings, and entries in an online list. These documents help set the agenda for the work of the Legislature's fiscal committees in developing a state budget. Staff of the office work with these committees throughout the budget process and provide public testimony on the office's recommendations.
More generally, the office is a staff resource to all legislators. The LAO also performs the following functions:
Budget "Control." The LAO reviews requests by the administration to make changes to the budget after it is enacted. These reviews are used primarily by members of the JLBC and the fiscal committees.
Special Reports. Throughout the year, the office prepares special reports on the state budget and topics of interest to the Legislature.
Initiatives and Ballot Measures. The office estimates the fiscal effect on state and local government of all proposed initiatives (prior to circulation) and prepares analyses of all measures that qualify for the statewide ballot.
Forecasting. The LAO forecasts the state revenues and expenditures.