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.
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.
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 21, 2020 - In this report, we examine district budgets—both looking back at actual experiences to date and looking ahead at what experiences could be over the next few years. First, we provide background on districts and their budgets. We then discuss trends in districts’ main cost drivers. Next, we examine overall district fiscal health, with a particular focus on districts in fiscal distress. In the final section, we identify some ways the Legislature could help school districts address their cost pressures moving forward.
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.
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.
December 18, 2019 - California operates two public university systems: (1) the University of California (UC), consisting of 10 campuses, and (2) the California State University (CSU), consisting of 23 campuses. The Legislature faces many pressures to increase funding for UC and CSU in 2020‑21. This report examines these university cost pressures, assesses the state’s capacity to fund some of them, and identifies options for expanding budget capacity to fund additional cost pressures.
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.
November 8, 2011 - The Governor’s 12-point pension and retiree health plan would result in bold changes for California’s public employee retirement programs. His proposals would shift more of the financial risk for pensions—now borne largely by public employers—to employees and retirees and would, in so doing, substantially ameliorate a key area of long-term financial risk for California governments. Despite the proposal’s strengths, it leaves many questions unanswered, such as how his hybrid plan and retirement age proposals would work and how the state should cope with large unfunded liabilities already affecting the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the University of California Retirement Plan, and the health benefit program for state and California State University retirees. The Governor’s proposal to increase many current public employees’ pension contributions also raises significant legal and practical issues.
May 9, 2007 - The Legislature required the Controller to contract with actuaries for California's first valuation of unfunded state retiree health liabilities. On May 7, 2007, the Controller reported that the state's estimated unfunded liabilities total $48 billion. This report answers key questions concerning the valuation and identifies actions the Legislature could take to address the state's liabilities.
February 17, 2006 - The costs of providing health care to retired state employees and their dependents—now approaching $1 billion per year—are increasing significantly. Many other public employers (including the University of California, school districts, cities, and counties) face similar pressures. This report discusses health benefits provided to retired public employees, focusing on state retirees. We find that the current method of funding these benefits defers payment of these costs to future generations. Retiree health liabilities soon will be quantified under new accounting standards, but state government liabilities are likely in the range of $40 billion to $70 billion-and perhaps more. This report describes actions that the Legislature could take to address these costs.
March 10, 2021 - This report provides an overview of the 2014 California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) funding plan, and analyzes the various challenges and complexities of the plan that have come to light that may impede CalSTRS’ ability to successfully eliminate the system’s unfunded actuarial obligation (UAO) by 2046. We offer several short- and longer-term recommendations for the Legislature to consider to help strengthen CalSTRS’ ability to eliminate current and future UAO, achieve long-term savings, and improve legislative oversight.