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October 31, 2017 - California Competes awards income tax credits to attract or retain businesses considering a significant new investment in California. In this report, we reviewed California Competes’ experience to date in meeting the Legislature’s goals for the program.
October 9, 2017 - When a property changes hands the taxes paid for the property often increase substantially. This is not true for most inherited property. Three decades ago, the Legislature and voters decided inherited property should not be reassessed when transferred. This has been a consequential decision. Many have benefited from the tax savings this policy affords. Nonetheless, the inheritance exclusion raises some policy concerns. Because of this, the Legislature may want to revisit the inheritance exclusion. Depending on the Legislature’s goals, the existing policy may be crafted too broadly and options are available to better target its benefits.
A short video accompanies this report.
September 28, 2017 - For many years, personal income tax (PIT) volatility has complicated budgetary planning. This report analyzes the causes of PIT volatility. We find that about 40 percent of PIT volatility is due to choices about which types of income to tax, another 40 percent is due to the progressive rate structure, and the last 20 percent is due to deductions and credits. The Legislature could choose to make the tax less volatile, but actions to reduce volatility could reduce future growth of state tax revenues.
June 20, 2017 - In the coming years, more and more aging homeowners likely will look to sell their homes. This surge in sales should boost local government property tax collections. These potential property tax gains are likely to be offset by an increase in the transfer of homes from parents to children which, unlike most home sales, does not trigger higher tax payments.
March 27, 2017 - The 2014-15 Budget Act established a three-year pilot program known as the State–County Assessors’ Partnership Agreement Program (SCAPAP). Under SCAPAP, the state allocated grants to eight county assessors’ offices to improve local administration of the property tax. In this report, we look at data from the first two years of SCAPAP and attempt to gauge the program’s effect on property tax revenues. Our analysis suggests the effect of SCAPAP on property taxes has been modest. There is even a good chance the state’s fiscal benefit from SCAPAP did not exceed state costs for the program.
March 8, 2017 - In this report, we review the available evidence to gauge whether housing element law--the state's primary tool to ensure that local governments adequately plan for new housing--achieves their objective of ensuring that local communities accommodate future home building. Our review suggests that housing elements fall well short of their goal. Communities’ zoning rules often are out of sync with the types of projects developers desire to build and households desire to live in. As a result, home building lags behind demand. Although we offer a few changes the Legislature could consider, real improvement can come only with a major shift in how communities and their residents think about and value new housing.
March 7, 2017 - In this analysis, we discuss three aspects of the State Board of Equalization’s (BOE’s) budget: (1) resources redirected to board members; (2) the administration’s 2017-18 budget proposal for BOE’s major IT project; and (3) the administration’s 2017-18 budget proposals for BOE’s tobacco tax and licensing programs.
March 2, 2017 - Under the State Constitution, state tax revenues in excess of the Prop 4 (1979) state appropriations limit, or Gann Limit, must be split between taxpayer rebates and additional school spending. The Governor now proposes a new calculation methodology that creates $22 billion in additional state spending capacity. We find that the Governor's proposal violates the spirit of Proposition 4 and—in our view—is highly vulnerable to legal challenges. We recommend that the Legislature reject the proposal and offer options for legislative consideration.
February 27, 2017 - In this analysis, we discuss our findings and recommendations regarding the Governor's proposals regarding the California Competes tax credit program. This affects two departments: (1) the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and (2) Franchise Tax Board.
February 22, 2017 - Proposition 56 was approved by voters in November 2016 to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Questions have been raised as to whether the Governor’s proposals for allocating Proposition 56 revenues meet the initiative’s requirement to supplement—and not supplant—existing spending in several areas. To examine these questions, we begin by reviewing the provisions of Proposition 56 and the Governor’s budget proposals. We then discuss whether the Governor’s proposals for Medi‑Cal could be viewed as supplanting General Fund resources and identify the relevant case law. We conclude by describing some trade‑offs for the Legislature to consider in allocating the Proposition 56 revenues.
February 8, 2017 - From 1990 to 2014, personal income in California grew fairly consistently, with limited volatility. On the other hand, California's personal income tax (PIT) base was much more volatile. This is because (1) some of the more stable pieces of personal income are not taxed under California's PIT and (2) the PIT tax base includes capital gains, which are extremely volatile and are not counted as part of personal income in federal statistics. This brief examines the volatility of the PIT tax base, one important element of the PIT's overall volatility in California. (This brief does not focus on other reasons for PIT volatility, such as California's PIT rate structure, in which high-income Californians pay a bigger fraction of their income than lower- and middle-income Californians.)
January 30, 2017 - Presented to: Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee
January 4, 2017 - In this report, we analyze intergenerational income mobility in California—the extent to which children attain higher (or lower) incomes than their parents. We find that California children have somewhat higher rates of income mobility than their peers in other states. The report’s findings suggest this is the result of their parents’ and their own characteristics, not because growing up in California results in more mobility.
Three short videos highlight some of the concepts and findings in the report.
December 6, 2016 - A new law passed in 2016 (SB 3 [Leno]) will increase California’s statewide minimum wage over a period of several years. The first increase will occur on January 1, 2017. This budget and policy post is a supplement to our series on the California Economy and Taxes blog, where we describe California's low-wage workers and highlight the parts of the state with local minimum wages higher than the statewide minimum wage in 2017.
(Updated 12/21/2016 to include Los Altos.)
September 29, 2016 -
In this report, as required by law, we evaluate the economic effects and the administration of the first film tax credit program passed in 2009. We find that about one–third of the film and television projects receiving incentives under this program would probably have been made in California anyway. We suspect that this level of “windfall benefits” to some credit recipients may be low compared to other tax credits, which would suggest that the first film tax credit program targeted the types of production vulnerable to being filmed outside the state relatively well.
Also see these four short videos that highlight findings from this report.