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The 2020-21 Budget: Structuring the Budget

February 10, 2020 - California has made significant progress in recent years to make its budget more resilient. Yet the process of achieving resilience can never be considered finished. This report lays out a framework for evaluating the budget’s structure using two key tools: reserves and operating surpluses. Using this framework, we evaluate the Governor’s proposed 2020-21 budget structure. We find that building more reserves or preserving a larger operating surplus would be prudent.

Report

The 2020-21 Budget: Transportation

February 10, 2020 - This report reviews the Governor's 2020-21 budget proposals for the state's transportation departments and programs.

Report

The 2020-21 Budget: California Arts Council

February 7, 2020 - The Arts Council conducts a range of activities in order to support arts in California. In carrying out this mandate, the Arts Council focuses its efforts on the development of various grant programs to support artists and organizations. In addition, the state budget has recently included funds for the Arts Council to distribute to specific museums and other cultural institutions. The Governor’s budget proposes $49 million, mostly from the General Fund, for support of the Arts Council in 2020‑21. As we discuss in this brief, the Governor’s budget proposes $10.5 million from the General Fund on a one‑time basis to expand and extend two existing Arts Council pilot programs­—one focused on state‑designated cultural districts and one focused on disaster preparedness. In order to facilitate the Legislature’s evaluation of these extended pilots when they are complete, we recommend that the Legislature (1) establish clear goals for the pilots and (2) direct the Arts Council to develop and evaluate measureable outcomes related to the goals prior to requesting additional funding for these programs.

Report

The 2020-21 Budget: Analysis of the Department of Developmental Services Budget

February 7, 2020 - The following report assesses the Governor’s proposed 2020‑21 budget for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which currently serves about 350,000 individuals with qualifying developmental disabilities in California. We first provide an overview of the budget proposal, including caseload projections and changes in year‑over‑year spending. We then consider four key new policy proposals. First, and most significantly, we consider the Governor’s proposal for a performance‑incentive program, which appears to represent a new direction for the DDS system. Second, we assess the Governor’s proposal to provide supplemental rate increases in additional service categories in 2020‑21. Third, we review a proposal to reduce the caseloads of service coordinators who work with children ages 3, 4, and 5. Finally, we examine the Governor’s proposed additions to DDS’ crisis and safety net services.

Report

The 2020-21 Budget: Assessing the Governor's Reorganization Proposals

February 7, 2020 - As part of his budget plan for 2020‑21, the Governor proposes six government reorganizations across several policy areas. In many cases, the Governor proposes consolidating agencies or shifting responsibilities from existing agencies to newly established entities. The proposals would affect a broad array of state departments, offices, and commissions that perform a wide range of functions. In reviewing the Governor’s reorganization proposals, there are many issues for the Legislature to consider in determining whether to approve or reject each proposal. In this brief, we outline a broad framework to consider these issues. Specifically, we recommend that the Legislature consider key questions when evaluating the proposals.

Report

State Correctional Spending Increased Despite Significant Population Reductions

February 4, 2020 - In this brief, we find that the major reasons why CDCR’s costs did not decline in line with the substantial decrease in the populations are: (1) costly operational changes to comply with various federal court orders, (2) increased employee compensation costs, and (3) the payment of costs that were deferred during the state’s fiscal crisis. However, we note that had the inmate population not declined over this period, CDCR spending would have increased by billions of dollars more than it actually did.

Report

Narrowing California’s K-12 Student Achievement Gaps

January 31, 2020 - In response to concerns over K‑12 student achievement gaps, the Legislature tasked our office with convening a work group on the topic and submitting a report. The required report needed to: (1) examine data on K‑12 student achievement gaps, (2) identify funding provided for disadvantaged and low‑performing students, (3) assess existing state efforts to serve these students, and (4) develop options for better supporting these students. This report responds to these requirements.

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Final Evaluation of Community College Bachelor’s Degree Pilot

January 24, 2020 - State law authorizes the California Community Colleges (CCC) to award associate degrees, generally limiting the awarding of more advanced degrees to the state’s universities. As an exception to this rule, Chapter 747 of 2014 (SB 850, Block) authorized CCC to offer bachelor’s degrees on a pilot basis at up to 15 community colleges. Chapter 747 directed our office to conduct an interim evaluation of the pilot by July 1, 2018 and a final evaluation by July 1, 2022. This report reflects our final evaluation.

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The 2020-21 Budget: School District Budget Trends

January 21, 2020 - In this report, we examine district budgets—both looking back at actual experiences to date and looking ahead at what experiences could be over the next few years. First, we provide background on districts and their budgets. We then discuss trends in districts’ main cost drivers. Next, we examine overall district fiscal health, with a particular focus on districts in fiscal distress. In the final section, we identify some ways the Legislature could help school districts address their cost pressures moving forward.

Report

FI$Cal IT Project Update—Special Project Report 8

January 8, 2020 - This report analyzes how the most recent project plan for the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal) information technology (IT) project—that has been under development since 2005—changes the project's cost, scope, and schedule. We also discuss what work is anticipated to remain even after the project is deemed by the administration to be "complete." Lastly, we make associated findings and recommendations.

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Assessing California’s Climate Policies—Electricity Generation

January 6, 2020 - In this report, we assess the effects of the state’s major policies intended to reduce emissions from the generation of electricity.

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Potential Impacts of Recent State Asset Forfeiture Changes

January 6, 2020 - Chapter 831 of 2016 (SB 443, Mitchell) made various changes to the state’s asset forfeiture processes related to drugs. These changes generally make it more challenging for state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue certain asset forfeiture cases. Senate Bill 443 also requires our office to provide a report that contains data about the economic impact of these changes on state and local law enforcement budgets. This report responds to that requirement.

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The 2020-21 Budget: Analyzing UC and CSU Cost Pressures

December 18, 2019 - California operates two public university systems: (1) the University of California (UC), consisting of 10 campuses, and (2) the California State University (CSU), consisting of 23 campuses. The Legislature faces many pressures to increase funding for UC and CSU in 2020‑21. This report examines these university cost pressures, assesses the state’s capacity to fund some of them, and identifies options for expanding budget capacity to fund additional cost pressures.

Report

How High? Adjusting California’s Cannabis Taxes

December 17, 2019 - In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized the nonmedical use of cannabis (typically called recreational or adult use) and created a structure for regulating and taxing it. In this report we provide (1) background information on cannabis and its legalization in California, (2) a discussion of the effects of adjusting the tax rate, (3) an assessment of other potential changes to California’s cannabis tax structure, and (4) recommendations for the Legislature.

Report

Preparing for Rising Seas: How the State Can Help Support Local Coastal Adaptation Efforts

December 10, 2019 - This report responds to increasing legislative interest in determining how the state can best prepare for the impacts of climate change, including sea‑level rise (SLR).

Also see this Summary Fact Sheet for the report