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With New Deficits Looming, California Will Weigh its Options for Allocating a Large Revenue Windfall

December 1, 2020 - In this Fiscal Perspectives post, the Legislative Analyst reflects on the key findings reported in the office's 2021-22 Fiscal Outlook.

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The 2021-22 Budget: State Correctional Population Outlook

November 19, 2020 - In this analysis, we (1) provide an overview of the state correctional population; (2) discuss our projections of the population through 2024-25, and (3) comment on how changes in the sizes of these populations could impact state correctional costs in both the near and long term. Specifically, we estimate that the number of inmates, parolees, and wards in the state’s correctional system will significantly decline due to two main factors—operational changes that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and various policy changes recently enacted that will further reduce the size of the state correctional population in the long term. We also estimate that these population declines will substantially slow the expected growth in CDCR’s overall projected costs through 2024-25—partially through the closure of five prisons. This publication is part of our The 2021-22 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook series.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Medi-Cal Fiscal Outlook

November 18, 2020 - Medi‑Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, provides health care coverage to about 13 million of the state’s low‑income residents. Medi‑Cal costs generally are shared between the federal and state governments. In a typical year, the General Fund covers a little more than 20 percent of total Medi‑Cal costs, with federal funds and other state and local funds respectively covering the remaining 65 percent and 15 percent of total costs. In this web post, we describe the major factors that we expect to drive changes in General Fund spending in Medi‑Cal over the near term—in 2020‑21 and 2021‑22—and over the longer term through 2024‑25. We also describe a number of key assumptions that we made in our spending projections.

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The 2021-22 Budget: The Fiscal Outlook for Schools and Community Colleges

November 18, 2020 - This report provides our fiscal outlook for schools and community colleges. State budgeting for schools and the California Community Colleges is governed largely by Proposition 98. The measure establishes a minimum funding requirement for K‑14 education commonly known as the minimum guarantee. This report provides our estimate of the minimum guarantee for the upcoming budget cycle. (The 2021‑22 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook contains an abbreviated version of our Proposition 98 outlook, along with the outlook for other major programs in the state budget.)

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The 2021-22 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook

November 18, 2020 - 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 situation has improved considerably relative to the June budget act with an estimated $26 billion windfall in 2021-22. However, the state also faces an operating deficit beginning in 2021-22 and throughout the outlook period, growing to $17 billion by 2024-25. Our analysis also finds it is quite unlikely for revenues to grow fast enough for the budget to break even and erase the operating deficit.

In addition to The 2021-22 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook report and the accompanying The 2021-22 Budget: The Fiscal Outlook for Schools and Community Colleges report, several related posts on health and human services, economics and taxes, and other issues will be published in the coming days.

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Workplace Safety and Health During COVID-19

November 17, 2020 - Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment

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Overview of Recent Changes to Major Nutrition Access Programs

November 17, 2020 - Senate Committee on Human Services

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Update on School District Budgets

November 16, 2020 - This post provides an update on the fiscal condition of California’s school districts as the state begins the process for developing its 2021-22 budget.

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Overview of Plastics in California

November 16, 2020 - Presented to: Assembly Natural Resources Committee Hon. Laura Friedman, Chair Select Committee on Waste Reduction and Recycling Hon. Kevin McCarty, Chair

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Update on COVID-19 Spending in California

November 10, 2020 - Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process Oversight and Program Evaluation and Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization

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An Analysis of University Reserves

November 10, 2020 - The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the shift to campuses operating re-motely, the economic downturn, and state funding reductions have created fiscal challenges for the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC). To help address these challenges, the 2020-21 Budget Act signaled the Legislature’s intent that the universities begin drawing down their core reserves for academic programs. Prior to the pandemic, the most recent data available showed that core reserves totaled $1.7 billion at CSU and $1.2 billion at UC. CSU and UC also plan to use their noncore reserves to maintain their self-supporting pro-grams (such as housing and parking), which have lost revenue due to remote operations. Importantly, though the state viewed the universities’ reserves as a budget tool for mitigating funding reductions this year, state law is silent on the level of reserves CSU and UC are to carry, the purposes of those reserves, and the interaction of those reserves with the state’s reserves. We encourage the Legislature to set clearer expectations regarding the state’s and the segments’ responsibilities for building reserves for future economic uncertainties. Developing a specific policy in this area would benefit from further analysis, as the reserve levels required to respond to any future situation would depend upon many factors (including the magnitude of a future economic downturn and the likelihood the state reduces funding for the universities).

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Expanding Access to Safe and Affordable Drinking Water in California—A Status Update

November 10, 2020 - In 2019 the Legislature passed and the Governor signed Chapter 120 (SB 200, Monning) establishing the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water (SADW) Fund, which provides up to $130 million annually for efforts to provide safe drinking water for every California community. The legislation tasked the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) with administering the funding and overseeing efforts to implement both short‑ and long‑term solutions to persistent drinking water problems. One year later, SWRCB has made good progress in establishing spending priorities, beginning to allocate funds and execute projects, and collecting essential data to identify the communities that should be targeted for improvements. However, the state is still in the very early stages of implementation. Given the serious threats to public health, safety, and environmental justice posed by existing drinking water deficiencies, the Legislature will want to continue conducting robust oversight over how efforts to rectify these conditions proceed.

Updated 11/12/20: State and federal government spending on certain activities to control the spread of COVID-19 revised upward to $8.6 billion.

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An Analysis of University Cash Management Issues

November 10, 2020 - In contrast to the state, the California State University and the University of California typically do not face cash timing issues. The universities also tend to have relatively larger cash cushions, which have allowed them over time to invest more of their cash in long-term investment accounts and even assist the state in managing its cash challenges. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and recession, however, have changed these dynamics. While the state has a larger cash cushion compared to previous recessions, the pandemic has resulted in notable revenue declines at campuses, which have weakened their cash positions. To weather the reduction in revenues, the universities have implemented, or are considering, internal borrowing and transfers, shifting more money back into short-term investment accounts, and issuing bonds to help cover operating costs. These actions will help the universities meet the unprecedented challenges wrought by the pandemic, but they come with trade-offs and risks. Given these developments, monitoring the universities’ fiscal condition over the coming years will be especially important for the Legislature.

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Update on COVID-19 Spending in California

November 5, 2020 - This post provides a high-level summary of state and federal funds provided to date to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this post we discuss: (1) the authorities, at both the state and federal levels, for COVID-19 spending; (2) the state, federal, and other funding sources for COVID-19 spending; and (3) the amounts of COVID-19 spending authorized so far, organized by different purposes and program areas.

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The 2020-21 Spending Plan: Proposition 98 and K-12 Education

October 29, 2020 - This post summarizes overall Proposition 98 funding and K-12 education spending in the 2020-21 budget package. It is part of our Spending Plan series, which contains posts focused on each major sector of the state budget.