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The State Appropriations Limit


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The 2017-18 Budget: Governor's Gann Limit Proposal

March 2, 2017 - Under the State Constitution, state tax revenues in excess of the Prop 4 (1979) state appropriations limit, or Gann Limit, must be split between taxpayer rebates and additional school spending. The Governor now proposes a new calculation methodology that creates $22 billion in additional state spending capacity. We find that the Governor's proposal violates the spirit of Proposition 4 and—in our view—is highly vulnerable to legal challenges. We recommend that the Legislature reject the proposal and offer options for legislative consideration.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Governor's Gann Limit Estimates

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.

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The State Appropriations Limit

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.

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The 2021-22 California Spending Plan: The State Appropriations Limit

August 30, 2021 - This post describes the legislative and administrative decisions regarding the State Appropriations Limit (SAL) in the 2021‑22 budget process.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Overview of the Governor's Budget

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.

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The 2021-22 Budget: The Fiscal Outlook for Schools and Community Colleges

November 18, 2020 - This report provides our fiscal outlook for schools and community colleges. State budgeting for schools and the California Community Colleges is governed largely by Proposition 98. The measure establishes a minimum funding requirement for K‑14 education commonly known as the minimum guarantee. This report provides our estimate of the minimum guarantee for the upcoming budget cycle. (The 2021‑22 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook contains an abbreviated version of our Proposition 98 outlook, along with the outlook for other major programs in the state budget.)

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The 2018-19 Budget: Analysis of the May Revision Education Budget Proposals

May 14, 2018 - In this report, we analyze the 2018-19 May Revision education proposals. We first provide an overview of Proposition 98 funding and then focus on the Governor’s major proposals for K‑12 education, child care and preschool, community colleges, universities, and student financial aid. In the pages that follow, we offer many specific recommendations for the Legislature to consider. Our package of recommendations includes adopting some proposals, modifying others in certain ways, rejecting others but inviting better proposals next year, and rejecting some proposals in their entirety.

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[PDF] An Analysis of Proposition 4: The Gann "Spirit of 13" Initiative

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.

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The 2021-22 Budget: Initial Comments on the Governor’s May Revision

May 17, 2021 - On May 14, 2021, Governor Newsom presented a revised state budget proposal to the Legislature. (This annual proposed revised budget is called the “May Revision.”) In this post, 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.

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The 2020-21 Budget: The Fiscal Outlook for Schools and Community Colleges

November 20, 2019 - This report examines how the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee might change over the coming years. The report has five parts. First, we explain the formulas that determine the minimum guarantee. We then explain how our estimates of Proposition 98 funding in 2018‑19 and 2019‑20 differ from the estimates included in the June 2019 budget plan. Next, we estimate the 2020‑21 guarantee. Fourth, we explain how the minimum guarantee could change through 2023‑24 under two possible economic scenarios. Finally, we identify the amount of funding that would be available for new spending commitments in the upcoming year and describe some issues for the Legislature to consider as it prepares to allocate this funding.

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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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.