March 5, 2019 - Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration
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.
June 4, 2019 - Presented to: Budget Conference Committee
February 5, 2019 - This report considers the overall structure of the Governor’s budget to evaluate how well it prepares the state to address a future budget problem. We begin with background to explain the state budget structure, budget problems, and options for addressing budget problems. We also provide background on the state’s existing reserves and debts and liabilities. We then present some key considerations as the Legislature considers its overall budget structure. Finally, we present and assess each of the Governor’s major budget reserve and debt and liability proposals and offer some alternatives for legislative consideration.
2/5/19: Corrected total of state spending deferrals in Figure 5.
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 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.
August 12, 2009 - Memo to Assembly Member Juan Arambula, July 30, 2009. This memo discusses California's debt, deferred payments, and other liabilities that will affect the state’s financial health in the future.
March 10, 2020 - Over the next decade, the state will be required to allocate an additional $12 billion to $21 billion to accelerate the pay down of state retirement liabilities under the provisions of Proposition 2 (2014). This represents a key and unique opportunity for the state. The Governor offers one strategy to prioritize these funds over the next few years. Notably, the Governor focuses on the state’s share of the unfunded liability for teachers’ pensions. While we agree this focus makes sense, the amounts the Governor proposes dedicating to this purpose are not connected to the specific actuarial needs of the teachers’ pension system. In this report, we present a method the Legislature could use to tie these payments to the system’s actual needs, which would better target the funding.
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.
February 7, 2019 - Presented to: Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
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.
March 26, 2019 - When facing budget problems in the past, the state has “deferred” payments from one fiscal year into the next, providing significant one-time budgetary savings. While the state has already addressed many of its outstanding deferrals, there are still three major categories of deferrals remaining. These are related to: (1) state employee payroll, (2) pension payments, and (3) Medi-Cal payments. The Governor proposes using $1.7 billion to undo the payroll and pension deferrals. We find this would improve the state’s fiscal position and moderately improve the state’s budgetary practices, however, this approach has shortcomings relative to alternatives. This post recommends an alternative approach to the Governor’s proposal.
May 30, 2019 - Presented to the Budget Conference Committee
March 20, 2013 - Last year, the Legislature asked CalSTRS to submit a report detailing at least three options for addressing the unfunded liabilities of the pension system's Defined Benefit (DB) Program, which are now estimated by system actuaries to total about $70 billion. This handout for the Legislature's Public Employment and Retirement Committees (1) describes the risks of waiting to address CalSTRS' unfunded liabilities, (2) compares CalSTRS' unfunded liabilities to California's other long-term liabilities, (3) and examines possible sources for additional funding. We recommend that the Legislature adopt a plan that aims to fully fund CalSTRS' unfunded liabilities in about 30 years. A companion video further explains our findings and recommendations.
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.
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.
October 12, 2020 - The 2020-21 budget package includes actions related to the state’s two largest pension systems—CalPERS and CalSTRS—that result in immediate savings for the state and school employers, while forgoing significant longer-term savings. To achieve these immediate savings, the 2020-21 budget package: 1) repurposes nearly $5 billion of supplemental payments made as part of the 2019-20 budget package on behalf of the state and school employers, and 2) suspends the CalSTRS board’s authority to increase the state’s contribution rate in 20202-21.
May 16, 2017 -
As part of his May Revision, the Governor proposes the state borrow $6 billion from the Pooled Money Investment Account (PMIA) to make a one-time payment to reduce state pension liabilities at CalPERS. The Governor proposes that the state and General Fund and special funds repay this loan with interest over a period of about eight years.
As we discuss in this brief, we think the plan would probably save the state money over the long run, although uncertainties remain about the likelihood and magnitude of this benefit. However, the administration is asking the Legislature to approve a large commitment of public resources with insufficient consideration. The administration has provided few of the legal or quantitative analyses that the Legislature should expect when receiving a request of this magnitude and complexity. Moreover, the administration has introduced this proposal as part of the May Revision—with only weeks before the constitutional deadline for the Legislature to approve the budget. We doubt all of the issues we raise in the brief can be reviewed by the June 15 deadline. However, there is no reason that the Legislature must make a decision before June 15. We recommend the Legislature wait to act on this plan until after the administration has submitted more analysis. At that point, the Legislature could decide whether or not to approve the proposal.