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The 2023-24 Budget: Initial Comments on the Governor's May Revision


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The 2015-16 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook

November 19, 2014 - The 20th annual edition of the LAO's Fiscal Outlook—a look at possible state revenue and spending trends over the next five years—reflects anticipated progress in building budget reserves under the recently approved Proposition 2. Specifically, absent new budget commitments, we estimate the state would end 2015-16 with $4.2 billion in total reserves, $2 billion of which would result from Proposition 2's new reserve rules. A $4 billion reserve would mark significant progress for the state, but maintaining such a reserve in 2015-16 would mean little or no new spending commitments outside of Proposition 98, the funding formula for schools and community colleges. Our higher General Fund revenue estimates translate to $6.4 billion available in 2015-16 for the state's Proposition 98 priorities. The report also discusses choices facing the state in implementing Proposition 2, such as choices about which budgetary and retirement debts to repay with dedicated Proposition 2 funds over the next 15 years.

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California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences

March 17, 2015 -

Living in decent, affordable, and reasonably located housing is vitally important to every Californian. Unfortunately, housing in California is extremely expensive and, as a result, many households are forced to make serious trade-offs in order to live here. While many factors have a role in driving California's high housing costs, the most important is the significant shortage of housing in the state's highly coveted coastal communities. We advise the Legislature to address this housing shortfall by changing policies to facilitate significantly more private home and apartment building in California's coastal urban communities.

See our February 9, 2016 follow up to this report: Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing.

Report

The 2016-17 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook

November 18, 2015 - California's state budget is better prepared for an economic downturn than it has been at any point in decades. Under the main economic scenario in this year's LAO Fiscal Outlook, 2016-17 would end with reserves of $11.5 billion, assuming the state makes no new budget commitments through next year. If the economy continues to grow through 2019-20, annual operating surpluses and larger reserves could materialize, and there may be capacity for some new budget commitments—whether spending increases or tax reductions. An economic or stock market downturn, however, could occur during our outlook period. To illustrate this economic uncertainty, we provide projections under alternative scenarios such as a hypothetical recession that causes budget deficits to re-emerge. The more new budget commitments are made in 2016-17, the more likely it is that the state would face difficult choices—such as spending cuts and tax increases—later.

Report

Unclaimed Property: Rethinking the State’s Lost & Found Program

February 10, 2015 - California law has long required banks, insurance companies, and many other types of entities to transfer to the State Controller’s Office (SCO) personal property considered abandoned by owners. The SCO has made important strides in reuniting this "unclaimed property" with owners recently, but faces budgetary and statutory constraints in reuniting even more such property. Since the 1950s, the state has accumulated over $7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to individuals, businesses, and local governments. Because property not reunited with owners becomes state General Fund revenue, the unclaimed property law creates an incentive for the state to reunite less property with owners. We recommend performance measures, or targets, for the unclaimed property program that place a greater emphasis on reuniting more property with owners and offer 19 options for meeting that goal.