April 6, 2018 - The State Constitution limits how much the Legislature can spend from tax revenues. The administration’s 2018-19 budget proposal reflects increased “room” under this limit—essentially spending capacity—of roughly $6 billion over June 2017 levels. Notably, the administration revised its approach for estimating costs to comply with federal and court mandates, which are excluded from the limit. We find that the mandates approach is inconsistent with the implementation of the spending limit because the administration reflects costs from any mandate whereas only costs resulting from mandates imposed after 1978-79 should be excluded from the limit. We recommend the Legislature direct the administration to revise its approach going forward to be consistent with the limit, which conceivably could increase or decrease room under the limit. In addition, we make several additional recommendations that would reduce room under the limit by several billion dollars.
April 21, 2021 - This report: (1) describes how appropriations limits work for the state, school districts, and local governments in California; (2) explains why the limit is a constraint for state government; and (3) concludes with a variety of short- and long-term policy options—both of which we think the Legislature will need to take—in response to the issue.
August 30, 2021 - This post describes the legislative and administrative decisions regarding the State Appropriations Limit (SAL) in the 2021‑22 budget process.
April 12, 2000 - California's state appropriations limit (SAL)--which grows annually by a population and cost-of-living factor--places an "upper bound" each year on the amount of monies that can be spent from state tax proceeds. The SAL has not been a constraint throughout the 1990s. It could again become one if current revenue trends continue.
September 30, 2022 - This post describes the legislative and administrative decisions regarding the State Appropriations Limit (SAL) in the 2022‑23 budget process.
March 30, 2022 - This brief estimates the condition of the budget over the multiyear taking state appropriations limit requirements into consideration.
December 1, 1979 -
On November 6, 1979, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 4, the "Spirit of 13" Initiative sponsored by Paul Gann. The proposition, which places Article XIIIB in the California Constitution, limits the growth in appropriations of both state and local governments to changes in the cost of living and population in order to control the spending levels established by California governments. Proposition 4 also attempts both to clarify the fiscal roles played by the various branches (legislative, judicial and executive) and levels (federal, state and local) of government, and to insure that any surplus funds are promptly returned to the people.
Proposition 4 is a sweeping measure which will dramatically affect both the state government and the vast majority of California's 6,600 local governments. Precisely how it will affect these governments, though, is not clear because the measure raises many questions and problems regarding how it is to be interpreted.
May 16, 2022 - On May 13, 2022, Governor Newsom presented a revised state budget proposal to the Legislature. (This annual proposed revised budget is called the “May Revision.”) In this brief, we provide a summary of the Governor's revised budget, focusing on the overall condition and structure of the state General Fund—the budget's main operating account. In the coming days, we will analyze the plan in more detail and provide additional comments in hearing testimony and online. The information presented in this brief is based on our best understanding of the administration's proposals as of 11:00 AM, May 14, 2022. In many areas of the budget, this understanding will continue to evolve as we receive more information. We only plan to update this brief for very significant changes (that is, those greater than $500 million).
Update (5/20/22): Updated to reflect information about state appropriations limit (SAL) excluded spending and other budget proposals.