February 21, 2020 - While wildfires have always been a natural part of California’s ecosystems, recent increases in the severity of wildfires and the adverse impacts on communities have increased the focus on the state’s ability to effectively prevent, mitigate, and respond to wildfire risks. This report has two parts. First, we assess the state’s approach to addressing wildfire risks in light of the complex challenges that make an efficient and effective approach difficult. Second, we evaluate the Governor’s various wildfire‑related budget proposals in the absence of having a statewide strategic wildfire plan.
February 5, 2021 - This publication provides detailed information and our initial comments on each component of the Governor's 2021-22 package of proposals—totaling $1 billion—to reduce the risk of severe and damaging wildfires. (See also our publication The 2021-22 Budget: Wildfire Resilience Package for an overview of and our initial comments on the package.)
February 4, 2021 - This publication discusses the Governor's 2021-22 January budget proposals for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, including $143 million for hand crews, $8 million for defensible space inspectors, and $54 million for various capital outlay projects.
February 5, 2021 - This publication provides an overview of and our initial comments on the Governor's 2021-22 package of proposals—totaling $1 billion—to reduce the risk of severe and damaging wildfires. (See also our publication The 2021-22 Budget: Wildfire Resilience Package—Analysis of Individual Programs for more detailed information and comments on each component of the package.)
April 4, 2018 - This report consists of five sections. First, we review the importance of and benefits provided by California’s forests. Second, we provide information regarding how forests are managed in California, including ownership, state and federal policies and programs, and funding. Third, we review the current conditions of forests and watersheds across the state, including the concerning implications and recent consequences of those conditions, as well as the actions that would be needed to make improvements. Fourth, in the findings section, we highlight shortcomings in how the state manages its forests and watersheds. Fifth, we offer recommendations for actions the Legislature could take to improve forest and watershed management in California.
June 21, 2019 - Recent catastrophic wildfires caused by utilities in California have caused tens of billions of dollars in property damage. Under current legal standards, these damages will directly lead to increased costs for utilities, which could be passed on to ratepayers. Moreover, the recognition of increased potential costs associated with wildfire risks has affected the credit markets, contributing to one investor owned utility (Pacific Gas and Electric) declaring bankruptcy, as well as credit downgrades for other utilities. These credit effects will make it more difficult and expensive for utilities to secure financing for capital investments, which will also increase costs for ratepayers, as well as potentially affect other policy goals. The goal of this report is to be a resource for policymakers and the public seeking to better understand the complicated issues surrounding utilities and the costs associated with wildfire risks.
February 19, 2013 - In this report, we review the Governor’s 2013-14 budget proposals for various resources and environmental protection departments and programs, including the Department of Water Resources, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Department of Parks and Recreation, California Energy Commission, and the Air Resources Board. We identify concerns with several of the proposals and make recommendations for legislative consideration. In some cases, we identify proposals that we think should be rejected or modified. In particular, we point out several budget proposals that would impact state expenditures in future years. We also note that the proposed budget includes several proposals to use certain revenues for different activities that may not be legally allowable given the revenue source. In addition, we identify several issues in the report that we believe merit greater legislative oversight, including a new surcharge on investor-owned utility electricity bills that the California Public Utilities Commission has been collecting since January 2012 without legislative authorization.
February 10, 2020 - This report reviews the Governor's 2020-21 budget proposals for the state's transportation departments and programs.
February 14, 2019 - In this report, we assess several of the Governor’s budget proposals in the natural resources and environmental protection areas. Based on our review, we recommend various changes, as well as additional legislative oversight. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of this report.
November 15, 2018 - In this post, we provide a summary of how CalFire is spending Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund dollars provided in the 2017-18 budget package. We focus primarily on CalFire’s Forest Health Program, and identify issues for the Legislature to consider as it oversees and guides future expenditures of forest health funding.
April 12, 2005 - California's wildland fire protection system involves multiple levels of government, requires significant levels of personnel and equipment, and relies on a complex series of interagency agreements. This primer is intended to assist the Legislature in understanding how wildland fire protection services are delivered and the major cost drivers affecting spending. We also make recommendations for increasing legislative oversight of state expenditures for wildland fire protection and for reducing these expenditures.
May 13, 2021 - For the second consecutive year, the state is experiencing extremely low rates of precipitation. As we prepare for what could be an extended period of dry conditions, it is helpful to review how the state responded to the last major drought. Such information can inform—and thereby potentially improve—the state’s current and ongoing response to developing conditions. In this report, we summarize the major activities, spending, and policy actions undertaken by the state to respond to the severe drought that occurred from 2012 through 2016. We also describe current conditions, and highlight some key lessons the Legislature can learn from previous efforts to help guide its response to the emerging drought.
April 16, 2021 - On April 13, 2021, the Governor signed SB 85 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review), which amends the 2020-21 Budget Act to provide additional funding for various wildfire and forest resilience activities. This post provides a brief summary of this funding package.
February 21, 2014 - In this report, we analyze the Governor's 2014-15 budget for the state's resources and environmental protection programs. We review and make recommendations on a number of major policy proposals, including a review of the administration's recently released Water Action Plan as well as the proposal to reduce or eliminate several programs currently funded by the Beverage Container Recycling Fund (commonly referred to as the "bottle bill"). We find that these policy proposals are generally reasonable approaches, though we identify trade-offs in the proposals and offer recommendations for legislative consideration. The report also identifies several issues included in the Governor's budget that merit additional legislative oversight. This includes the proposal to provide the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with a total of $43 million from the General Fund to address deferred maintenance backlogs. While we find that it makes fiscal sense to address deferred maintenance, there is uncertainty about what factors have contributed to the large backlogs, as well as how the state can best address maintenance needs on an ongoing basis.