Frequently Asked Questions

What's a day in the life of an LAO analyst like?

It depends. Part of what makes our job attractive is that the day-to-day work varies significantly depending on where we are in the budget cycle and if the Legislature is in session or not. Often we are working on multiple projects simultaneously. Sometimes the day is spent primarily doing analytical work at your desk, other days there are many meetings out of the office, some days the bulk of time is spent meeting with legislative staff or testifying at budget hearings, and often in the fall you are working on an independent research project. Follow the link to an analyst’s summary of several different days in her life in the office.

What's the career path at the LAO?

The following shows the salary ranges for the Fiscal and Policy Analyst (FPA) position. (Salary data current as of July 1, 2013.)

Fiscal and Policy Analyst (eight step range)
$57,468 - $80,856 per year

Senior Fiscal and Policy Analyst (four step range)
$84,900 - $98,280 per year

Principal Fiscal and Policy Analyst (four step range)
$103,200 - $119,472 per year

What do you look for in a LAO analyst candidate?

Generally, analysts have a minimum of a Master's degree in public policy or administration; business administration; economics; or political science; or a similar degree that has a curriculum that includes both (1) quantitative analytical courses, such as economics and statistics, and (2) qualitative analytical courses, such a public policy analysis. Ideal candidates must have the ability to:

  • Think critically, logically, and analytically about the budget and programmatic information presented in order to develop and retain a knowledge base that is well-grounded and objective.
  • Question assumptions used to formulate budgets or justify program and be skeptical about the information provided. Link disparate sources of information to develop a comprehensive understanding of a program as well as identify inconsistencies in programmatic and budgetary information.
  • Obtain, evaluate, and rigorously analyze data to determine the current state of affairs and clearly define a problem.
  • Develop feasible, practical, and reasonable options and recommendations to address specific problems that are defensible on an analytical basis and free of policy or political bias.
  • Present information clearly—both oral and written. Analysts must testify before budget subcommittees and be able to quickly and directly respond to questions about their program areas.
  • Work well with others in a fast-paced and production-oriented environment.
  • Maintain relationships with legislative, administrative, and intergovernmental staff, as well as industry groups and nonprofit organizations in the assigned policy area and serve as a resource to Members of the Legislature.

How much overtime will I work and when?

Most overtime will be worked in the months of January, February, May, and June because these months coincide with the release of the Governor’s January 10 budget proposal and the Governor’s release of the revised budget in May. On average, the amount of overtime analysts worked in the months of January and February 2012 combined was approximately 80 hours. In May and June 2012, the average combined over-time worked by analysts was 32 hours. Note, however, that the hours of overtime worked can vary widely in either direction, depending on budget workload (for example, a number of new proposals in the Governor’s proposed budget) and/or nonbudget workload (for example, a number of ballot measures requiring analysis). Analysts may need to occasionally work overtime during other times of the year, but generally below the levels indicated above.

After a certain amount of overtime has been worked, the office will grant compensatory time off, or paid leave, that the employee can use under specified circumstances.

What kind of work flexibility will I have?

Full-time staff work an eight-hour day plus overtime as needed, in addition to a one-half- or one-hour lunch break.

The core hours at the LAO—when all full-time staff are expected to be in the office—are from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. The office does, however allow flexibility with respect to starting and ending times. Specifically, full-time staff may begin work up to one hour before 9:00 A.M., in which case their normal day would end 8.5 or 9 hours after their starting time depending on the length of their lunch break. For example, an individual starting work at 8:00 A.M. would complete his/her normal day by 5:00 P.M. Alternatively, an individual might begin work at 8:30 A.M., in which case his/her normal day would be over by 5:00 P.M. or 5:30 P.M., while those who start at 9:00 A.M. must work until 5:30 P.M. or 6:00 P.M.

In addition, the LAO provides staff with greater flexibility during the months of September through December. During these months, with the approval of a manager, staff can work a modified schedule such as four ten-hour work days each week to get to the required 40-hour work week for full-time staff.

Most of the travel that you do will be associated with learning your program area. For example, you may travel to San Luis Obispo for two-day meeting of the California Transportation Commission meeting where transportation policy and the implementation of bond funding will be discussed. Typically, site visits are in-state and last a day or two. The duration and frequency of site visits is up to you and your manager and what you determine is necessary to fully understanding your program area. You may also travel to attend conferences related to your subject area. The length of travel associated with conferences will depend on the length of the conference you attend.

What training will I receive?

During your first year at the LAO you will receive a significant amount of classroom and on-the-job training to further develop your skills.

Training is provided in the following areas:

  • State budget process
  • State legislative process
  • Identifying and analyzing issues
  • Writing
  • Testifying
  • Becoming a program expert

In addition, analysts in various sections throughout the office will present information about the projects they are working on or provide informational sessions in their policy areas throughout the year. Topics for these sessions have included how K-12 education is funded in California, tax subsidies for the film industry, and a discussion about state and local mandates.

Analysts also attend a wide variety of conferences and educational seminars, and conduct site visits in support of their continuing professional development.

The buddy system. The LAO uses a mentorship program, informally known as the "buddy system", to provide new analysts an additional support network, beyond other new analysts, the manager, and members of the section during their first year in the office. The buddy system pairs a new analyst with two more experienced analysts, who informally help the new analyst learn about the LAO and smooth their adjustment to the office.

The buddy system includes regular coffee breaks or lunches to help ensure that informal relationships are being developed. The buddies provide opportunities for the new analyst to shadow more experienced analysts. Also, the more experienced analysts will review with the new analysts sessions of the buddies testifying during recent budget hearings to help new analysts develop their testifying skills.

What does nonpartisan mean?

The LAO’s mission is to provide analysis and nonpartisan advice to the Legislature on fiscal and policy issues. We strive to maintain our nonpartisanship in many ways, by (1) basing our work on data and objective analysis, not on a particular political orientation or bias, (2) seeking information and perspectives from groups across the political spectrum, and (3) providing the same services and analyses to both political parties. We expect all staff to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes this mission and maintains our nonpartisanship, integrity, and professionalism. Because the office’s credibility is inextricably linked with perceptions about our nonpartisanship, analytical staff must exercise sound judgment with regard to the extent and types of political activities they engage in.