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The 2019-20 Budget: Structuring the Budget: Reserves, Debt and Liabilities


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The 2019-20 Budget: Overview of the Governor's Budget

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.

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The 2019-20 Budget: Overview of the California Spending Plan (Final Version)

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.

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The 2019-20 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook

November 14, 2018 - The budget is in remarkably good shape. Under our estimates of revenues and spending, the state’s constitutional reserve would reach $14.5 billion by the end of 2019-20. In addition, we project the Legislature will have nearly $15 billion in resources available to allocate in the 2019-20 budget process. The Legislature can use these funds to build more reserves or make new one-time and/or ongoing budget commitments.

The longer-term outlook for the state also is positive. Under our economic growth scenario, the state would have operating surpluses averaging around $4.5 billion per year (but declining over time). Under our recession scenario, the state would have enough reserves to cover a budget problem—provided the Legislature used all of the available resources in 2019-20 to build more reserves.

Along with the Fiscal Outlook, you can find a collection of other fiscal outlook material on our fiscal outlook budget page.

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[PDF] The 2019-20 Budget: May Revision Multiyear Budget Outlook

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.

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The 2020-21 Budget: Initial Comments on the Governor’s May Revision

May 17, 2020 - On May 14, 2020, Governor Newsom presented a revised state budget proposal to the Legislature. In this post, we provide an overview of the overall budget condition under the May Revision estimates and proposals; the major actions the Governor took to close an estimated $54 billion budget gap; and give our initial comments on this budget package.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Repaying the CalPERS Borrowing Plan

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.

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The 2020-21 Budget: Structuring the Budget

February 10, 2020 - California has made significant progress in recent years to make its budget more resilient. Yet the process of achieving resilience can never be considered finished. This report lays out a framework for evaluating the budget’s structure using two key tools: reserves and operating surpluses. Using this framework, we evaluate the Governor’s proposed 2020-21 budget structure. We find that building more reserves or preserving a larger operating surplus would be prudent.

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[PDF] The 2017-18 Budget: Alternatives to the Governor’s Proposition 2 Proposals

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.

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The 2019-20 Budget: Proposition 98 Outlook

November 14, 2018 - In this report, we examine how the minimum guarantee might change over the next several years and discuss the factors likely to be driving those changes. We then examine key aspects of district budgets—focusing on the main cost pressures facing districts over the next several years.

In addition to this report, you can find the main California's Fiscal Outlook report along with a collection of other fiscal outlook material on our fiscal outlook budget page.

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Managing California’s Cash

September 3, 2019 - Similar to the state’s budget situation, the state’s cash situation is now very positive. However, this has not always been—nor will it always be—the case. This report includes a history of the state's cash management situation, in particular emphasizing why the state’s cash position has improved so much. This report goes on to describe some recent and novel actions to borrow from the state's cash resources and offers policymakers a framework to evaluate any future borrowing of this nature, should a proposal to do so arise. Given that the state's cash position will inevitably change in the future, we suggest the Legislature be cautious about approving additional proposals to make loans from the state's cash resources. Assessing a proposed loan using the criteria in this report may help determine whether its benefits exceed its costs.

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Addressing California's Key Liabilities

May 7, 2014 - This report categorizes and provides information about $340 billion in California's key retirement, infrastructure, and budgetary liabilities. In addition, this report provides a framework for the Legislature to consider in prioritizing repayment of these liabilities and makes recommendations on which liabilities to pay down first and how the state could address such costs in the future. In general, we suggest that the Legislature prioritize actions to pay down those liabilities (1) with relatively high interest rates or (2) that result in benefits for groups or entities other than the state government. Due to its massive unfunded liability and relatively high growth rate, we recommend that the Legislature make a full funding plan for the California State Teachers' Retirement System a top priority in addressing the state's key liabilities.

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Long-term Capacity for Debt Payments Under Proposition 2

December 21, 2017 - Our recent Fiscal Outlook publication considers potential future requirements under Proposition 2 (2014)—including required rainy day fund deposits and payments toward certain state debts. Some have asked whether Proposition 2 debt funding payments can be used to reduce liabilities of teacher and other public employees' pension plans. As we discuss in this post, there may be little ongoing capacity to make additional commitments from Proposition 2 debt funding payments through the mid-2020s.

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[PDF] The 2016-17 Budget: The Governor’s Proposition 2 Debt Proposal

February 24, 2016 - In this report, we analyze the administration’s proposal for meeting Proposition 2 debt payment requirements in 2016-17 and beyond. We find the administration’s proposal focuses on paying down low-interest debts that benefit schools and potentially benefit special fund fee payers. We suggest an alternative approach that could save taxpayers billions of dollars more over the long run. It would also allow the state to begin addressing more of its retirement liabilities sooner. Our approach focuses on high-interest debts that the state is otherwise not addressing. Specifically, we suggest the Legislature prioritize: (1) the state’s pension system for judges and (2) retiree health benefits for state and California State University employees.

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The 2020-21 Budget: Overview of the California Spending Plan (Final Version)

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.

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Building Reserves to Prepare for a Recession

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.

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[PDF] Structuring the 2019-20 Budget: Reserves, Debt and Liabilities

February 7, 2019 - Presented to: Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee

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The 2019-20 Budget: California Spending Plan—Debt Liabilities

October 17, 2019 - This post describes the debt and liability payments made as part of the 2019-20 budget package.

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[PDF] Structuring the 2019-20 Budget: Reserves, Debt, and Liabilities

March 5, 2019 - Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration