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February 25, 2016 - Presented to Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review
January 20, 2016 - Presented to: Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications.
December 17, 2015 - Presented to: Conference Committee on SBX2 2 and ABX2 1, Second Extraordinary Session
May 6, 2015 -
California’s state and local governments levy a tax on retail sales of tangible goods. This report begins with an overview of California’s sales and use tax. It then provides more detail about which transactions are subject to this tax, the variation in tax rates across the state, the distribution of revenue among state and local governments, and revenue growth over the last few decades.
(5/12/15: Correction made to expiry date of manufacturing equipment exemption.)
(5/12/15: Correction made to difference in sales tax for gasoline.)
April 22, 2015 - California imposes excise taxes on cigarettes and on other tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco. The state also licenses tobacco sellers and distributors. Recently, there has been considerable legislative interest in the cost of these programs, which are administered by the State Board of Equalization (BOE). The Legislature faces two key decisions: (1) how to pay for BOE’s cigarette and tobacco programs, and (2) how much to spend on them. This report recommends that the state use excise tax revenue to pay for excise tax administration but not for the tobacco licensing program. To address the imbalance between the licensing program’s costs and revenue, we further recommend the Legislature (1) temporarily increase fees on tobacco retailers, wholesalers, and distributors, and (2) direct BOE and the California Department of Justice to explore options to reduce the program’s costs by promoting electronic filing of schedules and tax returns.
April 7, 2015 - This report provides a preview of possible budgetary outcomes that the state’s elected leaders may face while finalizing the 2015–16 budget package in May and June. We do not produce a new revenue or budget outlook in this report. Rather, we consider the key factors that will affect May estimates. In general, this report’s scenarios discuss revenues and spending relative to the administration’s January 2015 budget estimates.
March 18, 2015 - Prepared for: Committee on Local Government and Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee
March 18, 2015 - Presented to Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee Presented to Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee
March 17, 2015 -
Living in decent, affordable, and reasonably located housing is vitally important to every Californian. Unfortunately, housing in California is extremely expensive and, as a result, many households are forced to make serious trade-offs in order to live here. While many factors have a role in driving California's high housing costs, the most important is the significant shortage of housing in the state's highly coveted coastal communities. We advise the Legislature to address this housing shortfall by changing policies to facilitate significantly more private home and apartment building in California's coastal urban communities.
See our February 9, 2016 follow up to this report: Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing.
February 23, 2015 - Presented to: Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee
February 10, 2015 - California law has long required banks, insurance companies, and many other types of entities to transfer to the State Controller’s Office (SCO) personal property considered abandoned by owners. The SCO has made important strides in reuniting this "unclaimed property" with owners recently, but faces budgetary and statutory constraints in reuniting even more such property. Since the 1950s, the state has accumulated over $7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to individuals, businesses, and local governments. Because property not reunited with owners becomes state General Fund revenue, the unclaimed property law creates an incentive for the state to reunite less property with owners. We recommend performance measures, or targets, for the unclaimed property program that place a greater emphasis on reuniting more property with owners and offer 19 options for meeting that goal.
December 18, 2014 - In June 2014, the Legislature directed the LAO to prepare a report analyzing the costs, benefits, and trade-offs of various options for a state earned income tax credit (EITC) that would supplement the federal credit. This report discusses considerations for adopting a state EITC and provides three options for the Legislature's consideration.
April 30, 2014 - This report provides background information on the motion picture industry and offers preliminary observations regarding the California film and television production tax credit. This report does not make recommendations regarding the tax credit or any proposed legislation. We highlight several factors for the Legislature to consider when reviewing the tax credit in our report.
March 20, 2014 - For about 100 years, California’s local governments generally could raise taxes without directly securing their residents’ consent. Beginning in 1978, the state’s voters amended the California Constitution several times to require that local government tax increases be approved by local voters. Recently, the Legislature has shown interest in exploring changes to voter-approval requirements for local taxes. Several proposals to place changes before the voters have been introduced during the current legislative session. This report was developed to provide context for discussions about changing these requirements. After a brief introduction to local governments in California, the report (1) summarizes the state's existing system of voter-approval requirements for local taxes, (2) explains how the state's complex voter-approval system evolved, and (3) reviews outcomes of local tax elections over the past 15 years.
March 13, 2014 - In this report, we provide an overview of local property tax administration and review the administration's proposed three-year pilot program to improve tax administration and generate state General Fund savings. In particular, we (1) describe how the current property tax system weakens the incentive counties have to fund property tax administration, (2) review and evaluate the administration's three-year pilot program to improve county incentives, and (3) provide recommendations regarding the pilot's design. In our view, the administration's pilot program merits the Legislature's serious consideration but could be improved by incorporating several modifications. These include: ensuring each county has the same fiscal incentive to participate, providing participating counties greater funding certainty, promoting representative and consistently measured results, and potentially increasing near-term state savings on school spending.