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August 29, 2018 - The Salton Sea is California’s largest inland lake, located in Riverside and Imperial Counties. In this report, we discuss the changing conditions in and around the Sea, their statewide importance, and the Legislature’s role in overseeing projects to reduce potential negative effects on public health and wildlife.
June 7, 2018 - The state’s transportation system helps to move people and goods around and through the state. The aim of this primer is to provide policymakers and the public with key information about this system. The primer begins with a chapter describing transportation governance. The subsequent five chapters consist of visual charts that provide information about the following:
May 14, 2018 - In this report, we analyze the 2018-19 May Revision education proposals. We first provide an overview of Proposition 98 funding and then focus on the Governor’s major proposals for K‑12 education, child care and preschool, community colleges, universities, and student financial aid. In the pages that follow, we offer many specific recommendations for the Legislature to consider. Our package of recommendations includes adopting some proposals, modifying others in certain ways, rejecting others but inviting better proposals next year, and rejecting some proposals in their entirety.
April 12, 2018 - The state and local governments collected about $220 billion in tax revenue in 2015‑16—equal to nearly 10 percent of the California economy. The personal income tax is the state's main revenue source, the property tax is the major local tax, and the state and local governments both receive revenue from the sales and use tax. In addition, many smaller taxes raise revenue for state and local government operations. This visual guide explains California's tax system using over 40 data visualizations. The report examines various characteristics of the tax system including what items are taxed, who pays the taxes, and how taxes are used.
April 4, 2018 - This report consists of five sections. First, we review the importance of and benefits provided by California’s forests. Second, we provide information regarding how forests are managed in California, including ownership, state and federal policies and programs, and funding. Third, we review the current conditions of forests and watersheds across the state, including the concerning implications and recent consequences of those conditions, as well as the actions that would be needed to make improvements. Fourth, in the findings section, we highlight shortcomings in how the state manages its forests and watersheds. Fifth, we offer recommendations for actions the Legislature could take to improve forest and watershed management in California.
April 4, 2018 - The 2017-18 budget package authorized a plan to borrow $6 billion from the Pooled Money Investment Account—an account that is essentially the state’s checking account—to make a one-time supplemental payment to the California Public Employees' Retirement System. All funds that make pension payments will repay the loan over the next decade or so. Authorizing legislation gives the administration some discretion over how funds will repay the loan, but the statute includes a variety of repayment requirements. In our view, while the basic elements of the administration’s repayment plan are reasonable, we have serious concerns about some choices the administration made. To address these concerns, in this report, we recommend a modified repayment approach that would: (1) be consistent with the authorizing legislation, (2) allocate repayment costs across funds appropriately and publicly, and (3) provide incentives to create more cost-effective outcomes.
April 4, 2018 - In 2017, the Legislature passed two laws that made major changes to tax administration and appeals in California. Prior to these laws, the Board of Equalization (BOE) had administrative and appeals responsibilities for many taxes and fees. The laws created two new departments—the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the Office of Tax Appeals (OTA)—and transferred most of BOE’s duties to these departments.
March 21, 2018 - This budget brief analyzes the Governor’s 2018-19 budget proposal to eliminate the use of the 340B Drug Pricing Program in Medi-Cal. The Governor’s proposed statutory changes are intended to generate state savings and reduce the administrative complexity of complying with federal law on duplicate discounts when 340B prescriptions drugs are dispensed to Medi-Cal enrollees. We find that the Governor’s proposal merits serious consideration from the Legislature since, among other benefits, it would likely result in state savings that the Legislature could, in turn, use to fund its priorities. We note, however, that these savings would be in place of savings currently enjoyed by eligible healthcare providers. Before making a decision on the Governor’s proposal, we recommend that the Legislature ask the administration to provide the following key information on the Governor’s proposal: (1) the amount of Medi-Cal savings that would be generated, (2) the impact on healthcare providers currently participating in the 340B Program, and (3) the trade-offs of alternative policy approaches to addressing the challenges that are present due to the use of the 340B Program in Medi-Cal.
March 15, 2018 - In this report, we explain how the existing credit works and why so few taxpayers are claiming it. Then we describe and comment on the administration’s California Hiring Credit proposal, which would improve upon the existing credit in some respects. We conclude with some options for making more fundamental changes to the credit.
March 7, 2018 - Reserves are of critical importance to the health of the state's budget. These funds help cushion the impact of a budget problem that emerges during a recession. In this report, our office provides an overview of revenue losses that have occurred in past recessions to consider the magnitude of a budget problem that could emerge in the future. Then, we describe the Governor's reserve proposal for 2018-19 and compare this level to past reserves and other states. Next, to aid the Legislature as it evaluates the Governor’s proposal, we present a framework that the Legislature can use to plan for a recession and determine a target level of reserves. Finally, we conclude with our office’s comments on the Governor’s proposed level of reserves in light of this framework and present some alternatives for legislative consideration.
March 1, 2018 - Proposition 55 (2016) aimed to increase funding for Medi-Cal under a formula administered by the Department of Finance. In 2018-19, the first year of implementation of this calculation, the administration’s interpretations and estimates result in no additional funds to Medi-Cal. Two key choices lead to this result. First, the administration’s decision to subtract $3.5 billion from available revenues to account for its proposed optional reserve deposit significantly reduces the calculation’s starting point, eliminating a surplus that would have directed funds to Medi-Cal. Second, the administration’s workload budget approach is based on a broad definition of currently authorized services, which also has the effect of reducing the amount of potential funds for Medi-Cal under the measure. Different decisions about these two features of the measure could result in more or less funding for Medi-Cal by hundreds of millions—or even billions—of dollars in the future.
February 27, 2018 - The Governor’s budget proposes a total of $17.2 billion from various fund sources for judicial and criminal justice programs in 2018‑19. This is an increase of $302 million, or 2 percent, above estimated expenditures for the current year. The budget includes General Fund support for judicial and criminal justice programs of $13.9 billion in 2018‑19, which is an increase of $270 million, or 2 percent, over the current‑year level. In this report, we assess many of the Governor’s budget proposals in the judicial and criminal justice area and recommend various changes. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of the report.
February 16, 2018 - In this report we provide a broad overview of the Governor's health and human services budget, highlighting major year-over-year changes. We then provide a more in-depth analysis of select programmatic areas.
February 15, 2018 - In this report, we first provide background on online education at the California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU), and University of California (UC). We then describe the Governor’s proposal to create a new intersegmental online program, assess that proposal, and make an associated recommendation.
February 15, 2018 - In this report, we first provide background on adult education and review the restructuring of adult education that the state embarked on in 2013-14. We then describe the Governor’s two 2018-19 adult education proposals. Next, we assess those proposals and examine various unresolved issues relating to the alignment of adult education policies among community colleges and adult schools. Lastly, we make recommendations relating to the Governor’s proposals and policy alignment.