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January 28, 2021 - The Governor’s budget proposes several changes to taxation to support businesses. Two key factors for evaluating these proposals are: (1) which level of government would forgo revenue; and (2) which businesses would receive assistance. Based on these criteria and others, we recommend that the Legislature prioritize expansion of the Main Street credit, explore alternative structures for an elective S Corporation tax, and reject the proposed one-time expansions of the CAEATFA exclusion and California Competes.
January 28, 2021 - In this report, we (1) provide an overview of the Litigation Deposit Fund (LDF), a state special fund created to receive certain litigation proceeds, (2) review the Legislature’s oversight of the LDF and the use of litigation proceeds, and (3) make recommendations to facilitate increased legislative oversight.
January 5, 2021 - This report is intended to provide guidance for the Legislature on how to evaluate the merits of state-funded green stimulus proposals. When reviewing such proposals, the Legislature faces two basic questions to evaluate whether they are worth pursuing: (1) what effects is the proposal likely to have on certain short-term economic conditions, such as employment and economic output; and (2) what short- and long-term environmental benefits could the proposal achieve?
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.
October 5, 2020 - Each year, our office publishes the California Spending Plan to summarize the annual state budget. This publication provides an overview of the 2020‑21 Budget Act, provides a short history of the notable events in the budget process, and then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. All figures in this publication reflect the administration’s estimates of actions taken through June 30, 2020, but we have updated the narrative to reflect actions taken later in the legislative session. In addition to this publication, we have released a series of issue‑specific posts providing more detail on various programmatic aspects of the budget.
August 10, 2020 - Encroaching seas and waves could result in negative impacts along California’s coast not only through increased flooding, but also by eroding beaches and cliffs, and by raising coastal groundwater levels. This report describes available research on how rising seas threaten California’s coast in seven categories: public infrastructure, private property, vulnerable communities, natural resources, drinking and agricultural water supplies, toxic contamination, and economic disruption.
August 4, 2020 - This report consists of three sections. First, in the background section, we describe (1) historical mining practices, (2) the risks AMLs pose to the environment and the physical safety hazards they cause, (3) the coordination across the many state and federal agencies to address AML issues, and (4) laws and programs governing the remediation of AMLs. In the second section of the report, we discuss key challenges to systematically remediating AMLs, such as a lack of a centralized statewide approach, land ownership issues, and lack of funding. In the third and final section, we recommend steps the Legislature could take to improve California’s approach to addressing the threats to public health and the environment caused by AMLs.
May 17, 2020 - On May 14, 2020, Governor Newsom presented a revised state budget proposal to the Legislature. In this post, we provide an overview of the overall budget condition under the May Revision estimates and proposals; the major actions the Governor took to close an estimated $54 billion budget gap; and give our initial comments on this budget package.
May 8, 2020 - This report provides an update on the budget’s condition in light of the public health emergency and economic downturn associated with the coronavirus disease 2019. Our outlook presents two potential scenarios—a somewhat optimistic “U-shaped” recession and a somewhat pessimistic “L-shaped” recession—and assumes a baseline level of expenditures. Under these two scenarios, the state would have to address an $18 billion or $31 billion budget problem. The state’s newly emergent fiscal challenges are likely to extend well beyond the end of the public health crisis. Under both of our economic scenarios, budget deficits persist until at least 2023-24 with multiyear deficits summing to $64 billion in the U-shaped recession and $126 billion in the L-shaped recession.
March 30, 2020 - California Competes is an economic development tax incentive program that allows the administration to negotiate tax credit agreements with individual companies that agree to meet multiyear hiring and investment targets. In this report we provide background information about the California Competes program and the changes that the Legislature made in 2018. Next, we describe the effects of these changes on the program in 2018‑19, the first year of their implementation. We then assess how the changes have affected the administration of the California Competes program and consider whether it is more or less effective than before. Lastly, looking forward, we suggest working to find ways to expand the pool of qualified applicants and advise the Legislature to continue its oversight of the program.
March 23, 2020 - In this budget analysis brief, we provide background information on the current tax expenditure and assess the merits of the administration’s proposal to expand it. We conclude that the Legislature should reject the Governor’s proposal. We further suggest the Legislature reconsider the current exemption.
March 13, 2020 - In this report, we identify a number of key issues for legislative oversight. First, we point out that the near‑ and long‑term schedules identified in the draft 2020 business plan appear ambitious. Second, we identify some near‑ and long‑term funding challenges confronting the project. Third, we raise concerns that HSRA’s plan to use a third‑party public entity to operate interim service from Merced to Bakersfield appears to be inconsistent with the spirit of Proposition 1A. Forth, we identify some of the key assumptions made by the ETO that affect its assessment of alternatives. Fifth, we identify some key actions that HSRA plans to take in the coming months that will significantly limit the state’s flexibility to change its approach to the project in the future.
March 11, 2020 - In an effort to ensure safety and quality, California state law places occupational licensing restrictions on who may provide childbirth and reproductive-related health care services to women. These restrictions include a requirement that nurse midwives may only practice under the supervision of a licensed physician. At the request of a member of the Legislature, this report analyzes whether this requirement is meeting its intended safety and quality objectives, without significantly increasing cost or decreasing access to health care services. Drawing on national research—that compares health care outcomes in states with and without a similar physician-supervision requirement for nurse midwives—we find that California's requirement is unlikely to improve safety and quality for low-risk pregnancies and births. Moreover, we find that the requirement could limit access to nurse-midwife services, and potentially health care services for women overall, while also raising the cost of care. We recommend that the Legislature consider removing the state’s physician-supervision requirement, while adding other safeguards to ensure safety and quality. Such safeguards could include, for example, requiring nurse midwives to maintain appropriate referral and consultative relationships with physicians and requiring that they maintain medical malpractice insurance.
March 10, 2020 - Over the next decade, the state will be required to allocate an additional $12 billion to $21 billion to accelerate the pay down of state retirement liabilities under the provisions of Proposition 2 (2014). This represents a key and unique opportunity for the state. The Governor offers one strategy to prioritize these funds over the next few years. Notably, the Governor focuses on the state’s share of the unfunded liability for teachers’ pensions. While we agree this focus makes sense, the amounts the Governor proposes dedicating to this purpose are not connected to the specific actuarial needs of the teachers’ pension system. In this report, we present a method the Legislature could use to tie these payments to the system’s actual needs, which would better target the funding.
March 6, 2020 - This report focuses on a state law enacted in the 1990s that shifts some of the property tax revenue in certain counties from schools and community colleges to other local agencies. For historical reasons, the shifted revenue is known as “excess ERAF.” (The acronym refers to the local accounts—known as Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds—that facilitate the shift.) We recently found that some counties are calculating excess ERAF in ways that seem contrary to state law and shift too much property tax revenue from schools to other agencies. We have three specific concerns related to the calculation of excess ERAF that together affect about $350 million in annual property tax revenue. Earlier this year, the Newsom administration began to address one of these concerns. In this report, we recommend the Legislature direct the administration to enforce state law on our other two concerns. We also recommend improving oversight to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.