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Rethinking the 1991 Realignment

October 15, 2018 - California has shifted programmatic and funding responsibility between the state and counties for various programs over the last 40 years. Historically, these shifts—or realignments—aimed to benefit both the state and counties by providing greater local flexibility over services, allowing counties opportunities to innovate and improve program outcomes, and encouraging cost savings by requiring counties to share in program costs. To achieve these benefits, we believe there are certain principles any realignment needs to follow. This report evaluates the extent to which one of California’s more notable realignments undertaken in 1991 achieves the intended benefits and meets these principles.

Report

Evaluation of the Property Tax Postponement Program

October 8, 2018 - Housing is very expensive in California—in early 2018, the typical California home cost $481,000, roughly double the price of the typical home in the United States. The state offers the Property Tax Postponement (PTP) Program to help certain homeowners afford their property taxes and stay in their homes. This report evaluates the advantages and shortcomings of the PTP and offers policy alternatives for legislative consideration.

Report

Improving Access to Dental Services for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities

September 27, 2018 - Individuals with developmental disabilities face a number of behavioral, cognitive, and physical challenges that can adversely affect their health. Oral health is no exception. Individuals with developmental disabilities often need extra appointments or special accommodations that dentists may be unwilling or unable to provide. This report analyzes the extent to which dental services are available and sufficient for individuals with developmental disabilities. Finding that access challenges exist, we consider options and make recommendations for improving access.

Report

The Salton Sea: A Status Update

August 29, 2018 - The Salton Sea is California’s largest inland lake, located in Riverside and Imperial Counties. In this report, we discuss the changing conditions in and around the Sea, their statewide importance, and the Legislature’s role in overseeing projects to reduce potential negative effects on public health and wildlife.

Report

California's Transportation System

June 7, 2018 - The state’s transportation system helps to move people and goods around and through the state. The aim of this primer is to provide policymakers and the public with key information about this system. The primer begins with a chapter describing transportation governance. The subsequent five chapters consist of visual charts that provide information about the following:

  • Driving. Provides information on drivers, vehicles, state highways, and local streets and roads.
  • Mass Transportation. Describes modes of transportation that move large numbers of people at once, such as transit and commercial aviation.
  • Active Transportation. Provides information on bicycling and walking trips.
  • Freight Movement. Discusses the movement of goods through air travel, rail, seaports, and highways and roads.
  • Funding. Describes the revenue sources supporting California’s transportation programs and infrastructure.

Report

The 2018-19 Budget: Analysis of the May Revision Education Budget Proposals

May 14, 2018 - In this report, we analyze the 2018-19 May Revision education proposals. We first provide an overview of Proposition 98 funding and then focus on the Governor’s major proposals for K‑12 education, child care and preschool, community colleges, universities, and student financial aid. In the pages that follow, we offer many specific recommendations for the Legislature to consider. Our package of recommendations includes adopting some proposals, modifying others in certain ways, rejecting others but inviting better proposals next year, and rejecting some proposals in their entirety.

Report

California's Tax System: A Visual Guide

April 12, 2018 - The state and local governments collected about $220 billion in tax revenue in 2015‑16—equal to nearly 10 percent of the California economy. The personal income tax is the state's main revenue source, the property tax is the major local tax, and the state and local governments both receive revenue from the sales and use tax. In addition, many smaller taxes raise revenue for state and local government operations. This visual guide explains California's tax system using over 40 data visualizations. The report examines various characteristics of the tax system including what items are taxed, who pays the taxes, and how taxes are used.

Report

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.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Repaying the CalPERS Borrowing Plan

April 4, 2018 - The 2017-18 budget package authorized a plan to borrow $6 billion from the Pooled Money Investment Account—an account that is essentially the state’s checking account—to make a one-time supplemental payment to the California Public Employees' Retirement System. All funds that make pension payments will repay the loan over the next decade or so. Authorizing legislation gives the administration some discretion over how funds will repay the loan, but the statute includes a variety of repayment requirements. In our view, while the basic elements of the administration’s repayment plan are reasonable, we have serious concerns about some choices the administration made. To address these concerns, in this report, we recommend a modified repayment approach that would: (1) be consistent with the authorizing legislation, (2) allocate repayment costs across funds appropriately and publicly, and (3) provide incentives to create more cost-effective outcomes.

Report

The 2018-19 Budget: California’s New Tax Departments

April 4, 2018 - In 2017, the Legislature passed two laws that made major changes to tax administration and appeals in California. Prior to these laws, the Board of Equalization (BOE) had administrative and appeals responsibilities for many taxes and fees. The laws created two new departments—the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the Office of Tax Appeals (OTA)—and transferred most of BOE’s duties to these departments.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Analysis of the Governor's 340B Medi-Cal Proposal

March 21, 2018 - This budget brief analyzes the Governor’s 2018-19 budget proposal to eliminate the use of the 340B Drug Pricing Program in Medi-Cal. The Governor’s proposed statutory changes are intended to generate state savings and reduce the administrative complexity of complying with federal law on duplicate discounts when 340B prescriptions drugs are dispensed to Medi-Cal enrollees. We find that the Governor’s proposal merits serious consideration from the Legislature since, among other benefits, it would likely result in state savings that the Legislature could, in turn, use to fund its priorities. We note, however, that these savings would be in place of savings currently enjoyed by eligible healthcare providers. Before making a decision on the Governor’s proposal, we recommend that the Legislature ask the administration to provide the following key information on the Governor’s proposal: (1) the amount of Medi-Cal savings that would be generated, (2) the impact on healthcare providers currently participating in the 340B Program, and (3) the trade-offs of alternative policy approaches to addressing the challenges that are present due to the use of the 340B Program in Medi-Cal.

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The 2018-19 Budget: California Hiring Tax Credits

March 15, 2018 - In this report, we explain how the existing credit works and why so few taxpayers are claiming it. Then we describe and comment on the administration’s California Hiring Credit proposal, which would improve upon the existing credit in some respects. We conclude with some options for making more fundamental changes to the credit.

Report

Building Reserves to Prepare for a Recession

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.

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The 2018-19 Budget: The Administration’s Proposition 55 Estimates

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.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Criminal Justice Proposals

February 27, 2018 - The Governor’s budget proposes a total of $17.2 billion from various fund sources for judicial and criminal justice programs in 2018‑19. This is an increase of $302 million, or 2 percent, above estimated expenditures for the current year. The budget includes General Fund support for judicial and criminal justice programs of $13.9 billion in 2018‑19, which is an increase of $270 million, or 2 percent, over the current‑year level. In this report, we assess many of the Governor’s budget proposals in the judicial and criminal justice area and recommend various changes. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of the report.