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February 23, 2006 - The California Public Utilities Commission administers several programs designed to subsidize telecommunications services in order to ensure universal access to these services. One of these is the California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) program, which provides discounts to schools, libraries, public hospitals and clinics, and community-based organizations (CBOs). While most of the eligible schools and libraries participate in the program, many eligible CBOs and public hospitals and clinics do not. We provide options to increase participation in the program by eligible entities.
February 23, 2006 - The retirement contribution rates set by CalPERS for the state and many local governments were volatile in the late 1990s and the early part of this decade. Governments had difficulty predicting annual contributions during their budgeting process. In 2005, CalPERS adopted a comprehensive rate stabilization policy. We believe the new policy promises more stability in contribution rates for the state and other public entities.
February 23, 2006 - The budget includes $382million ($203 million General Fund) for compensation increases for: (1) memoranda of understanding with five of the 21 employee bargaining units, (2) supervisors and managers of employees in those five units, (3) judges, (4) prison medical personnel required to receive them by a court order in the Plata v. Schwarzenegger case, and (5) medical personnel in other departments.
February 23, 2006 - The administration proposes to switch the Governor’s Office budget from traditional budgeting to an automatic annual adjustment. The change would cost about $1 million annually. The administration has offered no policy reason why the current process is not working. We therefore recommend that the Legislature reject the proposal to put the Governor’s Office budget on autopilot spending.
February 23, 2006 - The Governor’s budget assumes that proposed authority for the administration to reduce departmental budgets during the year will decrease overall state costs by $258 million. Since 2002-03, enacted budgets have included similar provisions. In reality, however, the full magnitude of these savings is rarely achieved. We recommend that the Legislature delete the proposed authority. The administration should identify any specific proposed savings in departmental budgets during the spring budget process.
February 23, 2006 - The Secretary of State (SOS) has provided few details on the department’s proposed implementation of HAVA. Based on the information received to date, however, we have a number of serious concerns with the agency’s approach. Delays by SOS over the past year in implementing components of the state’s HAVA plan have impaired counties’ ability to acquire and install HAVA-compliant equipment for the upcoming June 2006 primary election. In addition, SOS’s proposal for a statewide voter registration database exposes the General Fund to millions of dollars in costs, despite the state having received over $350 million in HAVA funds. We withhold recommendation on SOS’s HAVA expenditures pending the submittal of detailed justifications.
February 17, 2006 - The costs of providing health care to retired state employees and their dependents—now approaching $1 billion per year—are increasing significantly. Many other public employers (including the University of California, school districts, cities, and counties) face similar pressures. This report discusses health benefits provided to retired public employees, focusing on state retirees. We find that the current method of funding these benefits defers payment of these costs to future generations. Retiree health liabilities soon will be quantified under new accounting standards, but state government liabilities are likely in the range of $40 billion to $70 billion-and perhaps more. This report describes actions that the Legislature could take to address these costs.
January 23, 2006 - We revise our December 14, 2005 summary of the fiscal effect of the MOU with Bargaining Unit 2, Attorneys and Hearing Officers, based on a side letter which changes the retirement provisions of the previous MOU. We estimate that current annual costs for salaries, salary-related costs, and health benefits for Unit 2 members total $396 million ($144 million General Fund). The proposed MOU would require 2005-06 expenditures of about $409 million (an increase of $13 million, or 3.3 percent). The MOU would require 2006-07 expenditures of about $436 million (an additional increase of $27 million, or 6.7 percent). The side letter reduces the amount of savings the MOU otherwise would have produced for the state. The magnitude of the foregone savings is unknown since it would have depended on future decisions of Unit 2 employees.
February 24, 2005 - To the extent that the Legislature chooses to assess a fee to cover the state’s share of costs of the Medfly Preventative Release Program, we offer a number of considerations concerning a fee structure.
February 24, 2005 - The budget proposes an augmentation of $4.8 million and 46 two-year limited-term positions for increased regulatory activities related to tribal gambling. The request would double the size of the California Gambling Control Commission. The request fails to (1) clearly articulate what problems are being addressed, (2) justify a new state gaming lab, and (3) reflect a joint strategy with the Department of Justice. We recommend that the Legislature reject the request and the administration resubmit a proposal which addresses these problems.
February 24, 2005 - The Governor proposes shifting $469 million in General Fund teacher retirement costs to school districts and/or schools. Due to current law requirements, it is likely that the proposal would require a $469 million upward “rebenching” of Proposition 98’s minimum guarantee—nullifying the proposed General Fund savings. In addition, from a long-term perspective, the proposal on its own would not address the retirement system’s shortcomings—the lack of local control and responsibility.
February 24, 2005 - The Governor proposes to suspend all of the state’s election-related reimbursable mandates. These suspensions would reduce the state’s General Fund costs by $16.5 million in 2005-06. The suspensions, however, could cause confusion regarding election procedures and reduce statewide uniformity. We recommend funding a number of the mandates, but with a simplified reimbursement method.
February 24, 2005 - The implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) represents a significant opportunity for the Legislature to upgrade the state’s election systems and improve the administration of election laws. At a statewide level, the most pressing HAVA deadline is the requirement to have a federally compliant voter registration database operational by January 1, 2006. We offer a number of key considerations to assist the Legislature in implementing HAVA.