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 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 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.
May 8, 2020 - This report provides an update on the budget’s condition in light of the public health emergency and economic downturn associated with the coronavirus disease 2019. Our outlook presents two potential scenarios—a somewhat optimistic “U-shaped” recession and a somewhat pessimistic “L-shaped” recession—and assumes a baseline level of expenditures. Under these two scenarios, the state would have to address an $18 billion or $31 billion budget problem. The state’s newly emergent fiscal challenges are likely to extend well beyond the end of the public health crisis. Under both of our economic scenarios, budget deficits persist until at least 2023-24 with multiyear deficits summing to $64 billion in the U-shaped recession and $126 billion in the L-shaped recession.
May 17, 2019 - This report presents our office’s independent assessment of the condition of the state General Fund budget through 2022-23 assuming the economy continues to grow and all of the Governor’s May Revision spending proposals are adopted.
May 12, 2018 - On May 11, 2018 the Governor presented his 2018-19 May Revision budget proposal to the Legislature. This post describes the major features of the Governor’s May Revision and our office’s initial comments on it.
October 17, 2019 - Each year, our office publishes California Spending Plan, which summarizes the annual state budget. In July, we published a preliminary version of the report. This, the final version, provides an overview of the 2019‑20 Budget Act, then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. In addition to this publication, we have released a series of issue‑specific, online posts that give more detail on the major actions in the budget package.
Correction (10/29/19): Figure 4 total.
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.
August 24, 2021 - Each year, our office publishes the California Spending Plan to summarize the annual state budget. This publication provides an overview of the 2021-22 Budget Act, then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
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.
October 5, 2020 - Each year, our office publishes the California Spending Plan to summarize the annual state budget. This publication provides an overview of the 2020‑21 Budget Act, provides a short history of the notable events in the budget process, and then highlights major features of the budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. All figures in this publication reflect the administration’s estimates of actions taken through June 30, 2020, but we have updated the narrative to reflect actions taken later in the legislative session. In addition to this publication, we have released a series of issue‑specific posts providing more detail on various programmatic aspects of the budget.