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Overview of the Governor's Budget Clear Filters
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 14, 2019 - This report presents our office’s initial assessment of the Governor’s Budget. The budget’s position continues to be positive. With $20.6 billion in discretionary resources available, the Governor’s budget proposal reflects a budget situation that is even better than the one our office estimated in the November Fiscal Outlook. The Governor’s Budget allocates nearly half of these discretionary resources to repaying state liabilities. Then, the Governor allocates $5.1 billion to one-time programmatic spending, $3 billion to reserves, and $2.7 billion to ongoing spending. Although the Governor’s allocation to discretionary reserves represents a smaller share of resources than recent budgets, the Governor’s decision to use a significant share of resources to pay down state debts is prudent. The Governor’s ongoing spending proposal is roughly in line with our November estimate of the ongoing capacity of the budget under an economic growth scenario. This was just one scenario, however. Recent financial market volatility indicates revenues could be somewhat lower than either we or the administration estimated.
January 12, 2018 - This publication is our office’s initial response to the Governor’s 2018-19 budget. In the proposed plan, the Governor places a high priority on building reserves, proposing a total reserve balance of nearly $16 billion. We believe the Governor’s continued focus on building more reserves is prudent in light of economic and federal budget uncertainty. In addition to building reserves, the Governor’s proposed budget allocates sizeable funding increases available within the constitutionally required guarantee for schools and community colleges and supports a variety of new infrastructure projects. This report also discusses how new federal tax changes may affect state revenues and reasons why we believe there could be more resources available in May.
January 13, 2017 - This publication is our office’s initial response to the Governor's 2017-18 budget proposal. The administration's estimates anticipate slow growth in the personal income tax (PIT), the state’s dominant revenue source. The Governor’s estimate of PIT growth in 2017-18 is probably too low. As a result, by the May Revision, the state could have more General Fund revenue than the Governor now projects, but much of that revenue would be required to go to schools and Proposition 2 reserves and debt payments. Facing uncertainties we have long discussed about the economy and new uncertainties about changes to federal policy, the Legislature may want to set a target for total state reserves at—or preferably above—the level the Governor now proposes.
January 11, 2016 - This publication is our office’s initial response to the 2016-17 Governor’s Budget proposal. Estimates of state personal income taxes and required school funding are up significantly. In allocating discretionary resources in the 2016-17 budget, the Governor prioritizes growing state budget reserves. Specifically, he increases total reserves to more than $10 billion and also allocates a sizable portion of discretionary resources to one-time infrastructure spending. We encourage the Legislature, as it crafts this year’s budget in line with its own priorities, to begin with a robust target for reserves for the end of 2016-17 and to concentrate spending on one-time purposes. This would still leave some funds available for targeted ongoing commitments—particularly if the Legislature extends the managed care organization (MCO) tax. Such a measured approach would better position the state for any near-term economic downturn.
January 13, 2015 - In the Governor's 2015-16 budget proposal, the administration raises its revenue estimates, and this results in a multibillion-dollar influx of new funds for schools and community colleges under the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee. The Governor's plan identifies cost pressures and budget risks in health and human services programs, and new program commitments outside of Proposition 98 are limited. The Governor's proposal to pay off the state's retiree health liabilities over the next few decades would, if funded, address the last of state government's large unaddressed liabilities. We conclude the state likely will collect more tax revenue in 2014-15 than the administration now estimates. Barring a sustained stock market drop, an additional 2014-15 revenue gain of $1 billion to $2 billion seems likely in addition to the Governor's budget projection. Even bigger gains of a few billion dollars more are possible in 2014-15. These additional 2014-15 revenues will go largely or entirely to schools and community colleges and could result in a few billion dollars of higher ongoing state payments to schools. Whether tax revenues grow further, stagnate, or, in the worst case, decline in 2015-16 will depend in large part on trends in volatile capital gains and business income.
January 13, 2014 - On January 9, the Governor presented a budget package with a proposed $2.3 billion reserve at the end of 2014-15. The Governor's budget seeks to address some of California's biggest budget issues. The Governor's emphasis on debt repayment is prudent, and his proposal for a new rainy-day fund requirement underscores the importance of regular state contributions to a larger budget reserve. Overall, the Governor's budget plan would place the state on an even stronger fiscal footing.
January 14, 2013 - The Governor’s proposed budget reflects the significant improvement in the state’s finances that our office identified in November. The state has now reached a point where its underlying expenditures and revenues are roughly in balance, meaning that—under our and the administration’s fiscal forecasts—state-supported program and service levels established in 2012-13 will generally continue “as is” in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Because there are still considerable risks to revenue estimates given uncertainty surrounding federal fiscal policy and the volatility inherent in our revenue system, the Governor’s focus on fiscal restraint and paying off debts is appropriate. The budget contains major proposals in education, including a new formula for funding schools and additional resources for the public university systems, and presents alternatives for implementing the federal health care reform law.
January 11, 2012 - The Governor’s proposed tax initiative is the cornerstone of his 2012-13 budget plan, which includes proposals to restructure education finance, reduce social services and child care programs substantially, and implement trigger cuts--primarily affecting schools--if voters do not approve the tax measure. The Governor’s plan would continue the difficult task of restoring the state budget to balance, but the difficulty in knowing how much taxable income will be attributable to high-income Californians makes the state’s revenue estimates an even bigger question mark than usual. With regard to the Governor’s major proposals, we think the Governor’s education restructuring proposals would institute lasting improvements to the system, and we observe that, while his social services and child care proposals have merit, they involve considerable drawbacks as well, given potentially severe impacts on affected families. Moreover, while the Governor’s tax initiative would improve the financial outlook of public education over the next several years, his trigger plan would create significant uncertainty for educational institutions in their planning for 2012-13. The Legislature needs to be very deliberate in structuring a workable trigger package and designing tools to help schools respond to potential trigger cuts.
January 12, 2011 - The Governor's proposed budget plan addresses an estimated $25.4 billion state budget problem—consisting of an $8.2 billion deficit that would remain at the end of 2010-11 absent additional budgetary action and an estimated $17.2 billion gap between current-law revenues and expenditures in 2011-12. We believe the Governor's proposal is a good starting point for legislative deliberations. It includes reductions in nearly every area of the state budget and a package of revenue proposals that merit serious legislative consideration. We credit the Governor's efforts to craft a budget plan that focuses on multiyear and ongoing solutions, and his proposals to realign state and local program responsibilities and change local economic development efforts have much merit. Still, there are some significant risks in his plan and some optimistic savings assumptions. There is significant work ahead to fill in the details of some of the Governor's ambitious, complex proposals, particularly given his proposed accelerated timeline for budget deliberations and a June special election concerning extensions of tax increases.
January 12, 2010 - The Governor proposes $19.9 billion of budget solutions in 2009-10 and 2010-11 to address the budget shortfall and create a $1 billion reserve. While it is reasonable to assume the state will secure some new federal funding and flexibility, the chances that the state will receive all of what the Governor seeks from Washington are almost non-existent. The Legislature should assume that federal relief will be billions of dollars less than the Governor wants—necessitating that it make more very difficult decisions affecting both state revenues and spending. Many of this year's budget solutions will require significant time for departments to implement. Therefore, the Legislature and the Governor need to agree to a framework to solve much of the budget problem by the end of March.
(Video of Mac Taylor's press conference)
January 8, 2009 - The Governor’s budget framework makes a good faith effort to close a colossal $40 billion budget gap. The Legislature, however, can improve the plan by making further use of the ballot, adopting more strategic programmatic reductions and revenue increases, and reducing the reliance on borrowing. There are no easy paths to solving the crisis. But it is urgent that the Legislature and Governor act immediately to address a budgetary and cash situation that has the state on the edge of fiscal disaster
January 14, 2008 - The Governor has put forward an aggressive agenda for the special session and the 2008–09 budget. The Legislature should focus first on those areas where time is of the essence—where early decisions will allow state programs to achieve desired savings in the current year. The special session should also be used to lay the groundwork for achieving budget–year savings—for instance, by developing any program restructurings and taking any necessary actions on the current–year Proposition 98 minimum guarantee. In contrast to the Governor’s approach of across–the–board reductions, in our view the Legislature should (1) eliminate or further reduce low–priority programs in order to minimize the impact on higher priority programs and (2) examine additional revenue options as part of a more balanced approach. Making tough choices now will allow the state to move closer to bringing its long–term spending and revenues into alignment.
January 12, 2007 - The 2007-08 Governor’s Budget proposes a major redirection of transportation funds, reductions in social services, and a variety of other actions to eliminate a significant shortfall in 2007-08. The plan assumes that adoption of its proposals will result in a balanced budget with an over-$2 billion reserve. However, the budget contains a significant number of downside risks and is based on a number of optimistic assumptions. Its key proposals also raise serious policy and legal issues. Adverse outcomes in just a few of these areas could easily eliminate most or all of the proposed reserve.