To browse all LAO publications, visit our Publications page.
February 12, 2020 - In this installment of Fiscal Perspectives, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek discusses why, even with high budget reserve balances, it is prudent for the Legislature to continue assessing and strengthening the state’s fiscal capacity. The post also discusses how maintaining an operating surplus in the state’s multiyear budget plan can supplement reserves as an instrument of fiscal resilience. Petek makes the case that there is a particularly strong argument for doing so in the context of a mature economic expansion.
February 10, 2020 - California has made significant progress in recent years to make its budget more resilient. Yet the process of achieving resilience can never be considered finished. This report lays out a framework for evaluating the budget’s structure using two key tools: reserves and operating surpluses. Using this framework, we evaluate the Governor’s proposed 2020-21 budget structure. We find that building more reserves or preserving a larger operating surplus would be prudent.
January 23, 2020 - Presented to the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
January 22, 2020 - Presented to the Assembly Budget Committee
January 13, 2020 - This report presents our office’s initial assessment of the Governor’s budget. We estimate the Governor had a $6 billion surplus to allocate to discretionary purposes in 2020-21. The Governor allocates most of the surplus toward one-time purposes, including maintaining a positive year-end balance in the state’s discretionary reserve. Under the administration’s estimates, total reserves would reach $20.5 billion at the end of 2020-21—this represents a $1.7 billion increase from the 2019-20 enacted level. California continues to enjoy a healthy fiscal situation. Despite its positive near-term picture, the budget’s multiyear outlook is subject to considerable uncertainty. In addition to describing the condition of the budget under the Governor’s proposal, this report discusses tools the Legislature can use to mitigate against these heightened risks.
January 20, 2020: Upon further review, one item included in the original version of Appendix Figure 3 on discretionary on health spending should not have been included (specfically, use of the Medi-Cal drug rebate fund to offset General Fund costs). Removing this item—which reduces General Fund spending—from the list of discretionary choices made in the Governor’s budget increases our calculation of the surplus to $6 billion. The document is updated to reflect these changes.
Update 1/24/20: Adjusted Judicial Branch items in Appendix Figure 1 to reflect ongoing spending.
January 1, 2020 - An index of publications on the 2020-21 budget.
December 9, 2019 - Under the baseline scenario in our recently released report The 2020-21 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook, we estimate California's General Fund is on track for a $7 billion surplus in 2020-21, with around $3 billion available for new, ongoing commitments. Additionally, we estimate the state's rainy day fund will grow to $18.3 by the end of 2020-21. Despite these large estimated surpluses and reserves, our central recommendation to the Legislature is to limit its new, ongoing spending commitments to approximately $1 billion or less in the 2020-21 budget. In this new installment of Fiscal Perspectives, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek provides additional context for understanding the importance of limiting new, ongoing spending in the coming budget, with a short discussion of the state's fiscal structure, the state's economic backdrop, and other potential risks and uncertainties.
November 20, 2019 - The 2020-21 Budget: Fiscal Outlook Overview.
In addition to this handout, you can find the main California's Fiscal Outlook report along with a collection of other fiscal outlook material on our fiscal outlook budget page.
November 20, 2019 - The annual Fiscal Outlook publication gives our office’s independent assessment of the California state budget condition for the upcoming fiscal year and over the longer term. We find the budget continues to be in good condition with an estimated $7 billion surplus in 2020-21. However, we recommend the Legislature be cautious in allocating this surplus. Specifically, we suggest the Legislature initially plan to dedicate: (1) no more than $1 billion to ongoing purposes; (2) a significant portion toward building reserves and paying down debt; and (3) focus the remaining surplus on one-time, flexible commitments that can be changed midyear if needed.
October 17, 2019 - This post describes the debt and liability payments made as part of the 2019-20 budget package.
October 17, 2019 - Each year, our office publishes California Spending Plan, which summarizes the annual state budget. In July, we published a preliminary version of the report. This, the final version, provides an overview of the 2019‑20 Budget Act, then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. In addition to this publication, we have released a series of issue‑specific, online posts that give more detail on the major actions in the budget package.
Correction (10/29/19): Figure 4 total.
September 3, 2019 - Similar to the state’s budget situation, the state’s cash situation is now very positive. However, this has not always been—nor will it always be—the case. This report includes a history of the state's cash management situation, in particular emphasizing why the state’s cash position has improved so much. This report goes on to describe some recent and novel actions to borrow from the state's cash resources and offers policymakers a framework to evaluate any future borrowing of this nature, should a proposal to do so arise. Given that the state's cash position will inevitably change in the future, we suggest the Legislature be cautious about approving additional proposals to make loans from the state's cash resources. Assessing a proposed loan using the criteria in this report may help determine whether its benefits exceed its costs.
August 29, 2019 - In this Fiscal Perspective, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek writes about how the building of large budget reserve balances has quietly transformed California’s cash management in recent years.
August 2, 2019 - The Supplemental Report of the 2019-20 Budget Act contains statements of legislative intent that were adopted during deliberations on the 2019-20 budget package. (Revised October 2019)
June 4, 2019 - Presented to: Budget Conference Committee