October 5, 2016 - Each year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office publishes the California Spending Plan to summarize the annual state budget. This publication discusses the 2016–17 Budget Act and other major budget actions approved during 2016. Unless indicated otherwise, figures and dollar amounts generally refer to budget actions passed as part of the June 2016 budget package, as signed into law on June 27 and July 1, 2016. In some cases, as noted, we discuss later budget actions approved during August 2016 by the Legislature. During August, for example, the Legislature and the Governor agreed to spend certain cap–and–trade funds. The budget totals include $400 million (General Fund) for affordable housing even though the Legislature and Governor have not reached agreement on this spending.
This year's California Spending Plan includes an interactive graphic to help the reader visualize how the state budget spent $167 billion in total state revenues.
February 19, 2016 - In this publication, we summarize the administration’s estimate for constitutionally required reserve deposits in this year’s budget process. We then analyze the administration’s strategy for building additional reserves. While we concur with the Governor’s overall approach of building a robust level of total reserves, we find that his proposal to deposit optional amounts into the state’s rainy day fund would limit legislative control.
April 7, 2015 - This report provides a preview of possible budgetary outcomes that the state’s elected leaders may face while finalizing the 2015–16 budget package in May and June. We do not produce a new revenue or budget outlook in this report. Rather, we consider the key factors that will affect May estimates. In general, this report’s scenarios discuss revenues and spending relative to the administration’s January 2015 budget estimates.
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.
May 15, 2016 - In the May Revision, the Governor proposes ending 2016-17 with $8.5 billion in total state General Fund reserves. This level of reserves is about $1.7 billion lower than the level proposed by the Governor in January, which largely reflects a downward revision in revenue estimates since then, as well as increased required spending on K-14 education. Nevertheless, estimated tax revenues continue to exceed proposed spending in 2016-17, which would facilitate total reserves ending 2016-17 at $4 billion above the level assumed in the state's 2015-16 budget plan. Since January, the state has made budgetary commitments that represent substantial new ongoing costs for the state. These include: (1) an increase in the statewide minimum wage, (2) augmentations for health and human service programs, and (3) increased costs associated with new collective bargaining agreements. These commitments, along with the lower estimates of revenues and reserves, mean there is now less capacity than there was in January for additional budgetary commitments. Given these developments, and at this point in a mature economic expansion, we think it would be prudent to pursue a target for total reserves that is at least as large as the $8.5 billion amount in the Governor’s revised budget.
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.
February 23, 2017 - Proposition 2 (2014) requires the state to make: (1) minimum annual payments toward certain eligible debts and (2) deposits into the state’s rainy day fund. This publication outlines alternatives to the Governor’s proposals that could free up General Fund resources. It also addresses whether the Legislature can access funds from state’s rainy day reserve under the measure’s budget emergency provisions.
May 20, 2016 - This online post is our office’s multiyear outlook for California’s General Fund through 2019-20 based on current state law and policies, as modified by the Governor’s May Revision proposals. This is part of our response to the Governor’s 2016-17 May Revision. Our outlook estimates the state will end 2016-17 with $8.7 billion in total reserves. Over our outlook period, and assuming continued economic growth, we estimate the state’s budget has the capacity to pay for the Governor’s May Revision proposals over the period. After 2016-17, the state would have a few billion dollars available each year to build reserves or make additional commitments. Despite these budgetary surpluses, compared to other recent similar analyses, our outlook shows much smaller budget surpluses. Surpluses have declined largely as a result of new spending commitments by the state, including the increased state minimum wage. As a result, the state’s budget is now more vulnerable to a future economic downturn than it was last year. For this reason, we suggest the Legislature aim to pass a state budget with a robust level of total reserves this year.
May 17, 2016 - In the May Revision, the Governor proposes ending 2016-17 with $8.5 billion in total state General Fund reserves. This total reserve level is down $1.7 billion from January, but still represents an increase of about $4 billion over the level assumed in the 2015-16 budget plan. This online post provides more details about the breakdown of these funds in the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) and Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties (SFEU).
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.
March 25, 2015 - Proposition 2—approved by the voters in November 2014—places formulas into the State Constitution that determine the minimum amount of debt payments and budget reserve deposits to be made in a fiscal year. This publication analyzes the administration’s Proposition 2 proposal outlined in the 2015-16 Governor’s Budget. We recommend that the Legislature develop a long-term plan for Proposition 2 and suggest that the Legislature solicit proposals from the administration, state pension systems—including CalPERS, CalSTRS, and the UC Regents—and others concerning the benefits of applying Proposition 2 debt payment funds toward eligible liabilities. In addition, we note that, as of the Governor's January budget proposal, the administration's Proposition 2 plan for 2015-16 pays down more debt than required under the measure.
May 17, 2018 - This post presents our office’s outlook for the condition of the state’s General Fund through 2021-22 based on the Governor’s 2018-19 May Revision proposals.
May 16, 2014 - On May 13, 2014, the Governor released the 2014-15 May Revision to his annual budget proposal. The package continues to build reserves and pay down debts, including a new proposal to fund the teachers' pension system over about 30 years. Our May revenue forecast projects $2.5 billion higher revenues compared with that of the administration—not substantially different given the size of the state budget. In addition, we project over $700 million more in local property taxes for school districts. If the Legislature were to adopt our office's higher revenue forecast and property tax estimates, General Fund spending under Proposition 98 would increase $2.7 billion, relative to the administration's May forecast. Assuming that the administration's non-Proposition 98 spending estimates are accurate, this would leave around $500 million available for building reserves, paying down more debts, and/or other state priorities.
November 16, 2016 - On November 16th our office released its annual Fiscal Outlook. The outlook provides our assessment of California’s budget condition through 2020-21. This post provides more details on the outlook’s estimates of constitutionally required debt payments and reserve deposits under Proposition 2.
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.