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The 2017-18 Budget: The Governor's Cannabis Proposals

February 14, 2017 - Voters legalized the use of medical cannabis in California in 1996, and the Legislature approved the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) in 2015. In November of 2016, voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized and created a regulatory framework for the nonmedical use of cannabis. In the coming year, the Legislature will face key choices about whether it wants to make statutory changes to bring the regulatory frameworks of MCRSA and Proposition 64 into greater alignment. Additionally, the Legislature will need to determine the staff and other resources to provide to the various agencies charged with regulating and taxing the cannabis industry. We recommend the Legislature (1) work with the administration to enact legislation to align the regulation of medical and nonmedical cannabis to the maximum extent possible, (2) make its decisions on the extent to which it wants to align the regulatory structures for medical and nonmedical cannabis before making its decisions on the Governor’s requested funding and related positions, and (3) take a more incremental approach to budgeting for departments that are requesting resources in 2017-18.

Report

The 2017-18 Budget: Cap-and-Trade

February 13, 2017 - In this report, we provide comments and recommendations related to the Governor’s proposal. We recommend the Legislature authorize cap-and-trade (or a carbon tax) beyond 2020. If the Legislature approves cap-and-trade, we recommend the Legislature strengthen the allowance price ceiling and provide clearer direction to ARB regarding the criteria that the board should use to determine whether a complementary policy should be adopted. We also recommend the Legislature approve cap-and-trade (or carbon tax) with a two-thirds vote because it would provide greater legal certainty and ensure ARB has the ability to design an effective program. With a two-thirds vote, we recommend the Legislature broaden the allowable uses of auction revenue because it would give the Legislature flexibility to use the funds on its highest priorities. When finalizing its 2017-18 cap-and-trade spending plan, we recommend the Legislature (1) reject the administration’s proposed language making spending contingent on future legislation, (2) consider alternative strategies for dealing with revenue uncertainty, and (3) allocate funds to specific programs rather than providing DOF that authority.

Report

The 2017-18 Budget: Proposition 98 Education Analysis

February 9, 2017 - An analysis of the Governor’s overall 2017-18 Proposition 98 budget package as well as his specific spending proposals for K‑12 education, including a summary of our recommendations.

Report

Volatility of the Personal Income Tax Base

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.)

Report

Re-Envisioning County Offices of Education: A Study of Their Mission and Funding

February 6, 2017 - In 2013-14, the state created the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for county offices of education (COEs). With this funding, COEs are required to (1) provide alternative education to certain at-risk students and (2) oversee school districts’ budgets and academic plans. COEs may use any funding available after completing these tasks on optional activities that reflect their own priorities. We have concerns that providing funding directly to COEs for alternative education and optional activities detaches school districts from the decision making process of how to best serve their students. To address these concerns, we recommend the Legislature shift that funding to districts and allow them to contract with COEs (or other providers) for services. Because oversight of school districts’ budgets and academic plans likely is both more effective and efficient when performed at the regional rather than state level, we recommend the Legislature fund COEs directly for these activities. Because our recommendations signify major changes in the way the state funds COEs, we recommend the Legislature phase in the new funding model over several years.

(2/17/17 -- Corrected district services funding for district in county on figure 5.)

Report

Improving California's Regulatory Analysis

February 3, 2017 - Chapter 496 of 2011 (SB 617, Calderon) made significant changes to the way California analyzes and reviews major regulations under the state's Administrative Procedures Act (APA). These changes were intended to promote regulations that achieve the Legislature's policy goals in a more cost‑effective manner. In this report, we provide a brief description of California's regulatory process, the potential value of regulatory analysis, and the recent changes made by SB 617. Although there have been some improvements in recent years, we identify some significant limitations that still remain. We provide recommendations that are aimed at addressing these limitations by ensuring that the potential effects of regulations are thoroughly analyzed and regulators are implementing the Legislature's policy direction in the most cost-effective manner.

Report

Creating a Debt Free College Program

January 31, 2017 - The Supplemental Report of the 2016-17 Budget Act directs our office to estimate the cost of a new state financial aid program intended to eliminate the need for students to take on college debt. We estimate such a program for resident undergraduate students attending public colleges in California would cost $3.3 billion annually, on top of all existing gift aid. Adding certain eligibility requirements to the program could reduce these costs notably. For several reasons, the new program likely would reduce but not eliminate student loan debt. Additionally, the new program could create behavioral changes not factored into our estimate.

Report

Assessing UC and CSU Enrollment and Capacity

January 19, 2017 - Chapter 22 of 2015 (SB 81, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) requires our office to assess whether the state should construct new University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) campuses, taking a statewide perspective for UC and a regional perspective for CSU. In making our assessment, the legislation requires our office to consider a variety factors, including enrollment demand and capacity. We project university enrollment over the next eight years based on existing state policy and growth in the state's public high school graduates. In 2024-25, we project UC will enroll 11,000 more resident students (5 percent) than in 2016-17. We find the system could accommodate at least triple that amount of growth by increasing use of its existing facilities and constructing new facilities according to its already developed long-range plans. We project CSU enrollment in 11 regions across the state, with projected growth totaling 15,000 students (a 4 percent increase) in 2024-25 over 2016-17 levels. We find the system could accommodate more than 200,000 additional students by increasing use of its existing facilities and constructing new facilities according to already developed long-range plans. Given UC and every CSU region could accommodate projected enrollment through current or planned capacity, we conclude that new campuses are not warranted at this time.

Report

A Historical Review of Proposition 98

January 18, 2017 - Approved by the voters in 1988, Proposition 98 established certain formulas for calculating a minimum annual funding level for K-14 education. The state commonly refers to this level as the minimum guarantee. This report reviews the state’s more-than-quarter-century experience with Proposition 98.

Report

Understanding the Veterans Services Landscape in California

January 17, 2017 - In this report, we describe the demographics of California’s veterans and provide a high-level overview of veterans services provided in the state’s veterans homes and services provided in the community. We then review and provide our findings regarding the federally and state-funded services available to veterans related to four service areas of legislative interest: long-term care, transitional housing, mental and behavioral health, and employment assistance. Finally, we highlight issues for legislative consideration and offer options to improve service delivery within the veterans homes.

Report

Improving State’s Approach to Park User Fees

January 12, 2017 - The state park system contains nearly 280 parks, serves about 70 million visitors each year, and costs over $400 million a year to operate. These costs are mainly supported by the state General Fund and revenue generated by the parks, including roughly $100 million in fees paid by park users for day use, camping, and special events. In reviewing current fee-setting policies and procedures we find that the current lack of a statewide policy framework and standard process can lead to disparities in fees, infrequent reviews of fees, and inconsistent opportunities for public input. Our recommendations for improving how state park fees are determined and collected include (1) establishing a legislative fee policy that specifies the share of operational costs that should be borne by park users versus the General Fund (or alternative funding sources), (2) directing the State Parks and Recreation Commission to develop and regularly update fee guidelines to be implemented by state park districts in order to provide greater consistency throughout the state, and (3) specifying a fee-setting process that would be consistent statewide and provide greater opportunity for public input.

Report

Evaluation of CSU's Doctor of Nursing Practice Pilot Program

January 5, 2017 - To increase capacity in its nursing programs during the nursing shortage in the late 1990's, the California State University (CSU) cited a need to increase the number of nursing faculty holding a doctoral degree (required for tenured/tenure-track positions) and expressed interest in establishing its own Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to prepare such faculty. In response, the state enacted Chapter 416 of 2010 which temporarily allows CSU to offer an independent DNP on a pilot basis. Related legislation requires our office to evaluate the pilot program and make a recommendation regarding its extension. For a variety of reasons, we recommend the Legislature allow the CSU DNP pilot to sunset.

Report

Income Mobility in California Across Generations

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.

Report

The Administration’s Sacramento Office Building Construction Strategy: Ensuring Robust Oversight

December 14, 2016 - This report provides background information on Sacramento state office buildings and summarizes the actions taken in the 2016-17 budget process. It assesses the administration’s regional strategy for state office buildings in the Sacramento area. Finally, it provides recommendations to assist the Legislature as it faces key decision points related to the administration’s strategy.

Report

California Community Colleges: Evaluation of Intersession Extension Pilot Program

December 14, 2016 - During the state's last fiscal downturn, reductions to community college funding resulted in many students being unable to access taxpayer-subsidized courses. As a response, the state enacted Chapter 710 of 2013 (AB 955, Williams), which permitted select colleges to offer, on a pilot basis, fully fee-supported credit-bearing courses during winter and summer intersessions. Long Beach City College (LBCC)—the sole participant in the pilot—offered eight Chapter 710 courses in 2014, enrolling nearly 200 students. Our review finds that students who took these courses generally mirrored the broader LBCC student population. We also find that student outcomes for these courses were comparable to or better than outcomes for taxpayer-subsidized courses. Although the pilot was small, the results suggest that fully fee-supported intersession programs could serve as one viable means for colleges to maintain or expand access during tight budget times. Based on these encouraging results, we recommend the Legislature extend Chapter 710's sunset date and open up the program to any community college that meets specified criteria.