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Perspective

COVID-19 and California’s Evolving Fiscal Outlook

March 18, 2020 - In this installment of Fiscal Perspectives, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek offers some initial observations on the recent volatility in financial markets, palpably sharp reduction in economic activity, and the state’s fiscal position at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Perspective

Taking Stock of California’s Recession Readiness

February 12, 2020 - In this installment of Fiscal Perspectives, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek discusses why, even with high budget reserve balances, it is prudent for the Legislature to continue assessing and strengthening the state’s fiscal capacity. The post also discusses how maintaining an operating surplus in the state’s multiyear budget plan can supplement reserves as an instrument of fiscal resilience. Petek makes the case that there is a particularly strong argument for doing so in the context of a mature economic expansion.

Perspective

Tempered Expectations

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.

Perspective

The Quiet Transformation in California’s Cash Management

August 29, 2019 - In this Fiscal Perspective, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek writes about how the building of large budget reserve balances has quietly transformed California’s cash management in recent years.

Perspective

Amid Good Fiscal Times, Planning for the Future Is Crucial

May 21, 2019 - Through the adoption of countercyclical fiscal policies, California is better able to navigate the business cycle within the constraints of its constitutional balanced budget requirement. The idea here is that in good times—when revenues are strong—the state spends somewhat below its capacity, sequestering the difference in reserves. Later, when the economy and tax receipts weaken, the state can draw upon its accumulated savings to fund a spending level above what revenues would otherwise support. Exercising spending restraint during good times promotes fiscal sustainability and dampens the need for austerity in subsequent recessions, thus, facilitating policy stability. The more robust California’s countercyclical fiscal policies are, the more the state can avoid boom-and-bust budgeting, which most policymakers view as anathema.

Perspective

An Extraordinary Moment in California's Fiscal History

April 11, 2019 - In this Fiscal Perspective post, the Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek explains how and why—given the macroeconomic landscape—the Legislature may want to consider building larger reserves than what the governor proposed.