December 15, 2022 - Persistent high inflation presents federal and state policymakers with an economic problem not seen in roughly four decades. In fact, during much of the past 15-year period, inflation not only was subdued, it consistently ran below the Federal Reserve’s (the Fed’s) target of 2 percent. Chronically below-target inflation eventually prompted the Fed in August 2020 to adjust its policy framework to combat this tendency. Not long after, however, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation trends and the Fed’s orientation to them began to reverse. Once it emerged, inflation accelerated throughout 2021 and has remained elevated this year with as yet indeterminate signs of abating.
May 24, 2022 - This brief presents our office’s independent assessment of the condition of the state General Fund budget through 2025-26 under our forecast of revenues and spending, assuming the Governor’s May Revision policies were adopted.
November 16, 2022 - Our annual Fiscal Outlook publication gives our office’s independent assessment of the California state budget condition for the upcoming fiscal year and over the longer term. In this report, we anticipate the state will have a $24 billion budget problem to solve in the upcoming fiscal year and operating deficits declining from $17 billion to $8 billion over the multiyear period. The goal of this report is to help the Legislature begin crafting the 2023‑24 budget. Our analysis relies on specific assumptions about the future of the state economy, its revenues, and its expenditures. Consequently, our estimates are not definitive, but rather reflect our best guidance to the Legislature based on our professional assessments as of November 2022.
Update (11/22/22): The original version of this report identified a $25 billion—instead of a $24 billion—budget problem, which reflected an error in the way we accounted for student housing grant program funding.
March 7, 2018 - Reserves are of critical importance to the health of the state's budget. These funds help cushion the impact of a budget problem that emerges during a recession. In this report, our office provides an overview of revenue losses that have occurred in past recessions to consider the magnitude of a budget problem that could emerge in the future. Then, we describe the Governor's reserve proposal for 2018-19 and compare this level to past reserves and other states. Next, to aid the Legislature as it evaluates the Governor’s proposal, we present a framework that the Legislature can use to plan for a recession and determine a target level of reserves. Finally, we conclude with our office’s comments on the Governor’s proposed level of reserves in light of this framework and present some alternatives for legislative consideration.
December 7, 2023 - Each year, our office publishes the Fiscal Outlook in anticipation of the upcoming budget season. The goal of this report is to give the Legislature our independent estimates and analysis of the state’s budget condition as lawmakers begin planning the 2024-25 budget.
February 15, 2023 - This brief provides our current assessment of the scale of the coming budget problems under the Governor’s budget proposals. We also provide our guidance to the Legislature about how to address these shortfalls given current economic conditions.
November 26, 2018 - Taxes on sugary drinks have become increasingly common in recent years. In June 2018, the Legislature passed a law (Chapter 61 of 2018 [AB 1838, Committee on Budget]) prohibiting local governments from levying such taxes (and other taxes on groceries) through 2030. The law stated the Legislature’s intent to regulate the imposition and collection of such taxes to the exclusion of local action. As such, the Legislature may face the following decisions: (1) Should the state levy an excise tax on sugary drinks? and (2) If so, how should the tax be designed? This report provides information and perspectives for the Legislature to consider as it weighs these choices.
May 8, 2020 - This report provides an update on the budget’s condition in light of the public health emergency and economic downturn associated with the coronavirus disease 2019. Our outlook presents two potential scenarios—a somewhat optimistic “U-shaped” recession and a somewhat pessimistic “L-shaped” recession—and assumes a baseline level of expenditures. Under these two scenarios, the state would have to address an $18 billion or $31 billion budget problem. The state’s newly emergent fiscal challenges are likely to extend well beyond the end of the public health crisis. Under both of our economic scenarios, budget deficits persist until at least 2023-24 with multiyear deficits summing to $64 billion in the U-shaped recession and $126 billion in the L-shaped recession.
May 15, 2023 - On May 12, 2023, Governor Newsom presented a revised state budget proposal to the Legislature. (This annual proposed revised budget is called the “May Revision.”) In this brief, we provide a summary of and comments on the Governor’s revised budget, focusing on the overall condition and structure of the state General Fund—the budget’s main operating account.
February 22, 2023 -
This report describes the Governor’s proposed budget solutions within climate, resources, and environmental programs, and provides the Legislature with a framework and suggestions for how it might modify those proposals to better reflect its priorities and prepare to address a potentially larger budget problem.
Correction (4/27/23): The amounts in Figure 1 for Wildfire and Forest Resilience and Nature-Based Activities and Extreme Heat have been corrected.
February 10, 2020 - California has made significant progress in recent years to make its budget more resilient. Yet the process of achieving resilience can never be considered finished. This report lays out a framework for evaluating the budget’s structure using two key tools: reserves and operating surpluses. Using this framework, we evaluate the Governor’s proposed 2020-21 budget structure. We find that building more reserves or preserving a larger operating surplus would be prudent.
March 1, 2018 - Proposition 55 (2016) aimed to increase funding for Medi-Cal under a formula administered by the Department of Finance. In 2018-19, the first year of implementation of this calculation, the administration’s interpretations and estimates result in no additional funds to Medi-Cal. Two key choices lead to this result. First, the administration’s decision to subtract $3.5 billion from available revenues to account for its proposed optional reserve deposit significantly reduces the calculation’s starting point, eliminating a surplus that would have directed funds to Medi-Cal. Second, the administration’s workload budget approach is based on a broad definition of currently authorized services, which also has the effect of reducing the amount of potential funds for Medi-Cal under the measure. Different decisions about these two features of the measure could result in more or less funding for Medi-Cal by hundreds of millions—or even billions—of dollars in the future.
November 15, 2017 - The near-term budget outlook is positive. Under our current estimates, the state would have $19.3 billion in total reserves (including $7.5 billion in discretionary reserves) at the end of 2018-19, assuming the Legislature makes no additional budget commitments. The Legislature can use discretionary resources to build more budget reserves, increase spending, and/or reduce taxes. We also estimate the Legislature will have $5.3 billion in uncommitted school and community college (Proposition 98) funds to allocate in 2018-19. We provide more detail on our estimates of Proposition 98 funding in a separate report accompanying this outlook. The state has made significant progress in preparing for the next recession. To assess the longer-term budget outlook, we present two illustrative economic scenarios for fiscal years after 2018-19. Under a moderate recession scenario, the state has enough reserves to cover its deficits until 2021-22, assuming the Legislature makes no additional budget commitments. Additional budget commitments in the near term could cause the state to exhaust its reserves earlier in the next recession
This year, our Fiscal Outlook includes this report and a collection of other fiscal outlook material on our fiscal outlook budget page.
November 14, 2007 - In order to balance the 2008–09 budget, the state will have to adopt nearly $10 billion in solutions. Addressing the state’s current budget problem is even more urgent because we forecast a continuing gap between revenues and expenditures. A plan to permanently address the state’s fiscal troubles must involve a substantial portion of ongoing solutions. This is not only because of the persistent operating deficits projected throughout the forecast, but also because of the downside risks inherent with the economy, General Fund revenue volatility, and a wide range of budgetary uncertainties. Making tough choices now will allow the state to move closer to putting its fiscal woes in the past.
February 23, 1994 - The 1994-95 Governor's Budget recognizes that the two-year budget plan adopted last June has been undermined by the continuing stubborn state recession. Faced with an $8 billion budget funding gap for 1993-94, the Legislature and Governor adopted a two-year plan to achieve a balanced budget in 1994-95. That plan now is $4.9 billion out of balance based on the state's current revenue and spending trends identified in the 1994-95 Governor's Budget.