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January 22, 2020 - Presented to the Assembly Budget Committee
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.
January 13, 2020 - This report presents our office’s initial assessment of the Governor’s budget. We estimate the Governor had a $6 billion surplus to allocate to discretionary purposes in 2020-21. The Governor allocates most of the surplus toward one-time purposes, including maintaining a positive year-end balance in the state’s discretionary reserve. Under the administration’s estimates, total reserves would reach $20.5 billion at the end of 2020-21—this represents a $1.7 billion increase from the 2019-20 enacted level. California continues to enjoy a healthy fiscal situation. Despite its positive near-term picture, the budget’s multiyear outlook is subject to considerable uncertainty. In addition to describing the condition of the budget under the Governor’s proposal, this report discusses tools the Legislature can use to mitigate against these heightened risks.
January 20, 2020: Upon further review, one item included in the original version of Appendix Figure 3 on discretionary on health spending should not have been included (specfically, use of the Medi-Cal drug rebate fund to offset General Fund costs). Removing this item—which reduces General Fund spending—from the list of discretionary choices made in the Governor’s budget increases our calculation of the surplus to $6 billion. The document is updated to reflect these changes.
Update 1/24/20: Adjusted Judicial Branch items in Appendix Figure 1 to reflect ongoing spending.
January 9, 2020 - We reviewed the proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) for Bargaining Unit 18 (Psychiatric Technicians). This review is pursuant to Section 19829.5 of the Government Code.
Corrected 1/10/2020: Changed Figure 3 and reference to the figure in text.
January 9, 2020 - This post summarizes the current efforts being undertaken by state departments to assess the vulnerability of state facilities to the future impacts of climate change. We find that most state agencies are only in the early stages of conducting such assessments, which are a critical first step of a multistep process of planning to reduce risks to state assets and public services. We provide a number of oversight questions the Legislature can use to monitor what progress is being made by individual state departments.
January 8, 2020 - This report analyzes how the most recent project plan for the Financial Information System for California (FI$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.
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.
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.
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.
December 17, 2019 - In this post, we discuss a key interaction between sales taxes and other taxes on cannabis retailers—in particular, local business taxes. Due to this opaque, counterintuitive interaction, the overall tax rate on cannabis is slightly higher than it appears to be. We recommend that the Legislature make statutory changes to address this issue.
December 17, 2019 - In this post, we describe some of the similarities and differences between taxes on cannabis and taxes on other products in California. Our estimates suggest that taxes on certain cannabis products are roughly comparable to taxes on distilled spirits but much higher than taxes on beer and wine. California’s state and local governments generally tax cannabis—including medical cannabis—more heavily than other medicines. In some instances, however, exemptions can make tax rates on medical cannabis comparable to tax rates on other medicines.
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
December 9, 2019 - Presented to: Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services
December 9, 2019 - Under the baseline scenario in our recently released report The 2020-21 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook, we estimate California's General Fund is on track for a $7 billion surplus in 2020-21, with around $3 billion available for new, ongoing commitments. Additionally, we estimate the state's rainy day fund will grow to $18.3 by the end of 2020-21. Despite these large estimated surpluses and reserves, our central recommendation to the Legislature is to limit its new, ongoing spending commitments to approximately $1 billion or less in the 2020-21 budget. In this new installment of Fiscal Perspectives, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek provides additional context for understanding the importance of limiting new, ongoing spending in the coming budget, with a short discussion of the state's fiscal structure, the state's economic backdrop, and other potential risks and uncertainties.