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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 16, 2021 - The California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) proposal is a set of reforms to expand, transform, and streamline Medi-Cal service delivery and financing. This post—the second in a series assessing different aspects of the Governor’s proposal—analyzes CalAIM financing issues, including both the Governor’s funding plan for CalAIM as well as CalAIM’s policy changes related to Medi-Cal financing.
February 16, 2021 - This post analyzes the major adjustments to the Medi-Cal budget in 2020-21 and 2021-22, with a focus on the technical adjustments such as the administration’s caseload estimates. We will further analyze the major discretionary Medi-Cal proposals in separate publications and communications to the Legislature.
December 18, 2020 - To help address the state’s large budget deficit as estimated in June 2020, the 2020-21 budget package deferred a substantial amount of General Fund payments to schools and the California Community Colleges (CCC). In this post, we (1) provide background on community college cash flow and cash management, (2) describe the community college deferrals included in the state’s 2020-21 budget package, (3) explain how the CCC Chancellor’s Office is implementing these deferrals, (4) discuss how community college districts are responding, and (5) present options for the Legislature to consider, particularly given the improved budget outlook.
February 17, 2021 - This post analyzes the Governor’s proposal in the Department of Health Care Services to provide $750 million General Fund—on a one-time basis—in competitive grants to counties to acquire or renovate facilities for community behavioral health services.
February 8, 2018 - In this report, we analyze the Governor’s budget proposals for various transportation departments and programs. We begin by providing an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for each department and program. In the next section, we discuss two cross‑cutting state transportation issues: (1) funding from the tax and fee increases authorized by Chapter 5 of 2017 (SB 1, Beall), and (2) an update on the condition of the Motor Vehicle Account (MVA). In the following three sections, we analyze the Governor’s budget proposals for Caltrans, CHP, and DMV. In each of these sections, we provide relevant background, describe the proposals, assess the proposals, and identify issues and recommendations for legislative consideration. The final section consists of a summary of the recommendations we make throughout the report.
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.