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Measuring CalWORKs Performance

September 6, 2017 - Currently, performance measurement in the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program is relatively limited and largely focuses on processes involved with the program's operation—particular emphasis is given to a federal performance measure known as the "work participation rate" (WPR)—rather than on the program's end results, or outcomes. As part of the 2017-18 budget package, the Legislature adopted a new framework for performance measurement in CalWORKs that will be known as the CalWORKs Outcomes and Accountability Review (Cal-OAR). In this report, we outline the rationales for measuring program performance and outline why, ideally, performance measurement should focus on outcomes. We then raise several issues to be considered as the Cal-OAR system is further developed and implemented in the coming years.


Overview of the 2017 Transportation Funding Package

June 8, 2017 - In April 2017, the Legislature enacted Chapter 5 (SB 1, Beall), also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act. The administration estimates this legislation will increase state revenues for California’s transportation system by an average of $5.2 billion annually over the next decade. In this report, we (1) provide a brief background on the state’s transportation system, (2) describe the major features of the transportation funding package contained in the legislation, and (3) discuss issues for the Legislature to consider moving forward.


The 2017-18 Budget: Governor’s CalPERS Borrowing Proposal

May 16, 2017 -

As part of his May Revision, the Governor proposes the state borrow $6 billion from the Pooled Money Investment Account (PMIA) to make a one-time payment to reduce state pension liabilities at CalPERS. The Governor proposes that the state and General Fund and special funds repay this loan with interest over a period of about eight years.

As we discuss in this brief, we think the plan would probably save the state money over the long run, although uncertainties remain about the likelihood and magnitude of this benefit. However, the administration is asking the Legislature to approve a large commitment of public resources with insufficient consideration. The administration has provided few of the legal or quantitative analyses that the Legislature should expect when receiving a request of this magnitude and complexity. Moreover, the administration has introduced this proposal as part of the May Revision—with only weeks before the constitutional deadline for the Legislature to approve the budget. We doubt all of the issues we raise in the brief can be reviewed by the June 15 deadline. However, there is no reason that the Legislature must make a decision before June 15. We recommend the Legislature wait to act on this plan until after the administration has submitted more analysis. At that point, the Legislature could decide whether or not to approve the proposal.


The 2017-18 Budget: Analysis of the May Revision Education Proposals

May 15, 2017 - In this brief, we analyze the Governor’s May Revision education proposals. First, we review changes in the overall Proposition 98 funding level. Subsequently, we describe and assess the Governor’s major proposals for K‑12 education, child care and preschool, the California Community Colleges, the California State University, the University of California, and student financial aid.

5/16/17: Correction to LAO CalWORKs Stage 2 cost estimates.


CalSTRS Funding: An Update

May 5, 2017 - The CalSTRS board recently acted to change assumptions used to estimate its unfunded liabilities, including the key assumption about future investment returns--sometimes referred to as the "discount rate." These and other recent developments have eroded CalSTRS' funding situation. This brief details these changes and describes how they will affect the state, school and community college districts, and teachers


The 2017‑18 Budget: Implementation of Proposition 57

April 6, 2017 - In November 2016, voters approved Proposition 57, which made various changes affecting the state’s adult and youth correctional systems. In this report, we first describe state law and practice prior to the implementation of Proposition 57 and provide a description of the provisions of the measure. We then describe and assess the administration’s proposals to implement Proposition 57 and provide various recommendations for legislative consideration.


California Community Colleges: Effects of Increases in Noncredit Course Funding Rates

March 30, 2017 - In this report, we assess the effects of recent changes in state funding rates on California Community Colleges (CCC) noncredit courses, and recommend that the Legislature explore four key issues moving forward. We believe that by addressing the appropriate funding rates for noncredit instruction, the respective roles and definitions of credit and noncredit instruction, the accessibility of such instruction across the state, and the system the state has for measuring the effectiveness of noncredit and adult education, the Legislature could improve significantly the effectiveness of noncredit and adult education in California over the coming years.


The 2017-18 Budget: Considering the State's Role in Elections

March 30, 2017 - Despite reaping regular benefits from county administration of elections, the state only sporadically provides funding to counties for election activities. The state has a clear interest in secure, timely, and uniform elections. We recommend the Legislature develop a new financial relationship between the state and counties to (1) direct statewide elections policy and (2) provide a reasonable and reliable level of financial support that reflects the benefits to the state of county elections administration. The pending implementation of a new voting model via 2016 legislation, SB 450, provides an opportunity for the Legislature to consider how to structure such a financial relationship to ensure consistency across counties as well as address other elections issues.


The 2017-18 Budget: Evaluating the State-County Assessors' Partnership Agreement Program

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.


Update on Los Angeles’ Bid for the 2024 Olympics

March 23, 2017 - This report updates our November 2016 report on Los Angeles' bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Los Angeles' bid greatly reduces financial risks that have plagued prior hosts of the Games, as we discussed in November. Since then, organizers have released new plans for the Games' Opening and Closing Ceremonies, an updated budget, and a study of potential economic benefits for Los Angeles. This report recaps those developments and others. We discuss the federal government's significant role in a possible Los Angeles Games and the potential role of state legislative oversight in helping keep public financial risks low, if Los Angeles is chosen over Paris to host the Games.

Correction 5/25/2017: Changed date for new L.A. football stadium's first Super Bowl to 2022, following a decision on this matter by NFL team owners.


Managing Floods in California

March 22, 2017 - This report is intended to provide basic information about floods and flood management in California. (Whereas previous generations referred to “flood control” or “flood prevention” activities, experts now prefer the term “flood management” in acknowledgement that floodwaters are recurring and inevitable.) We begin by summarizing the history, causes, and risk of floods across the state. We then describe flood management agencies, infrastructure, and strategies, as well as how governmental agencies typically respond when floods occur. Next, we describe the spending levels and funding sources currently supporting flood management efforts, as well as estimates for how much additional funding may be needed to improve those efforts. We conclude by highlighting some key challenges confronting the state in contemplating how best to manage floods in California.


The 2017-18 Budget: Analysis of Child Care and Preschool Proposals

March 16, 2017 - In this report, we analyze the Governor’s child care and preschool proposals. The report has six main sections. In the first section, we provide background on child care and preschool programs in California. In the second section, we provide an overview of the Governor’s child care and preschool proposals. In the third section, we analyze the Governor’s preschool proposals and make associated recommendations. In the following two sections, we provide in‑depth analyses of (1) the state’s various quality improvement activities and (2) Alternative Payment agencies, which administer certain child care programs. The final section consists of a summary of the recommendations we make throughout the report.


Savings Plus Program: An Optional Retirement Benefit for State Employees

March 14, 2017 - This report examines the Savings Plus Program (the state's optional retirement savings plan for state employees). We find that, although anyone can benefit from saving money for their retirement, certain groups of state employees--those who work less than a full career, earn lower salaries, and are hired in the future and earn less generous retirement benefits as a result of recent policy changes--could significantly improve their financial security in retirement by saving more money on their own during their working career. In this report, we discuss our findings and options the Legislature can consider to improve employee participation. This report reflects policy changes established through labor agreements that require state employees to contribute a percentage of pay to prefund retiree health benefits and reduce retiree health benefits for future employees. Some of these agreements currently are pending legislative ratification.


The 2017-18 Budget: Analysis of the Medi-Cal Budget

March 9, 2017 - In California, the federal‑state Medicaid program is administered by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) as the California Medical Assistance Program (Medi‑Cal). Medi‑Cal is by far the largest state‑administered health services program in terms of annual caseload and expenditures. In this report, we provide an analysis of the administration’s caseload projections, including a discussion of the projected increases in ACA optional expansion caseload. We also provide an assessment of several aforementioned major factors affecting projected changes in Medi‑Cal spending in 2017‑18 and other policy changes proposed by the administration. These include the Governor’s proposed uses of Proposition 56 revenues, the proposal to shift additional New Qualified Immigrants (NQIs) to Covered California in 2017‑18, assumptions around federal CHIP funding, and the proposed abolition and transfer of the Major Risk Medical Insurance Fund (MRMIF).


Do Communities Adequately Plan for Housing?

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.