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The 2023-24 Budget: Improving Legislative Oversight of CalFire’s Emergency Fire Protection Budget


State Wildfire Response Costs Estimated to Be Higher Than Budgeted

October 19, 2020 - This post discusses the administration’s recent notice to the Legislature, which estimates state emergency costs of $1.3 billion to fight this year’s wildfires. Provides context on the extreme wildfire season of 2020, as well as implications for the state budget.


[PDF] The 2020-21 Budget: Governor's Wildfire-Related Proposals

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.


A Primer: California's Wildland Fire Protection System

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.


[PDF] The 2010-11 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection

March 8, 2010 - In reviewing the Governor's budget proposal, we uncovered current actions and proposals of the administration that either circumvent the Legislature's authority, make it difficult for the Legislature to oversee the administration's spending, or limit the Legislature's flexibility in making decisions. We found that the administration is: developing new renewable energy procurement requirements that circumvent legislative policy as reflected in current state law (known as the renewables portfolio standard); using an Emergency Fund--intended to pay for large-incident wildland firefighting costs--to cover some day-to-day departmental expenditures that are more appropriately made subject to legislative budget review; proposing a somewhat similar emergency fund for flood management that would be structured to allow the administration to augment it at its discretion without notifying the Legislature; and proposing again to fund recreation activities at State Water Project facilities in a way that escapes legislative budgetary review for all the spending. Finally, we recommend rejection of the Governor’s proposal to dedicate the ongoing Tranquillon Ridge oil lease revenues to support state parks, because it limits the Legislature's future decision making.


[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

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.


The 2018-19 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection

February 14, 2018 - In this report, we assess many of the Governor’s budget proposals in the resources and environmental protection areas and recommend various changes. Below, we summarize our major findings and recommendations. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of this report.


[PDF] Wildfires, Emergency Readiness, and Response

January 31, 2019 - Presented to: Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee


[PDF] Reducing the Destructiveness of Wildfires: Promoting Defensible Space in California

September 30, 2021 - A key strategy for reducing home losses during wildfires is for homeowners to maintain an area free of excess or dead vegetation around their homes, known as defensible space. This report identifies the challenges to improving the number of homeowners in compliance with existing state and local defensible space requirements and provides recommendations to address these challenges in order to reduce the destructiveness of future wildfires.

Executive Summary (PDF)


[PDF] The 2022-23 Budget: Wildfire Response Proposals

January 28, 2022 - In this brief, we provide our initial assessment and recommendations in response to the major wildfire response-related proposals included in the Governor’s 2022-23 budget.


The 2019-20 Budget: California Spending Plan—Resources and Environmental Protection

October 17, 2019 - The 2019-20 budget includes over $12 billion for the state’s natural resources and environmental protection programs. This post describes budgetary actions related to the annual cap-and-trade expenditure plan, support for a new safe and affordable drinking water program, funding for a variety of wildfire prevention and response activities, as well as other significant changes.


[PDF] The 2019-20 Budget: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

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.


Unit 8 (Firefighters) MOU Analysis

August 26, 2022 - We reviewed the proposed memorandum of understanding for Bargaining Unit 8 (Firefighters). Bargaining Unit 8 is represented by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Firefighters (CalFire Local 2881). This review is pursuant to Section 19829.5 of the Government Code.


[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Wildfire Resilience Package—Analysis of Individual Programs

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.)


The 2021-22 Spending Plan: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

October 18, 2021 - The 2021‑22 budget package provides a total of $21.7 billion from various fund sources—the General Fund, bond funds, and various special funds—for programs administered by the California Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agencies. This is a net increase of $4.8 billion (22 percent) compared to 2020‑21 estimated expenditures.

Correction 10/22/21: Funding amount for CDFW has been corrected.


Improving California's Forest and Watershed Management

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.