LAO Outlook Analysis: Thinking Smartly About Our Fiscal Future

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

What a difference a year makes. California’s recent approval of Proposition 2 is already paying dividends. The Legislative Analyst’s new Fiscal Outlook shows Proposition 2 is doing what it was designed to do: capturing a run-up in unsustainable spikes in revenue, paying down debts and setting aside revenues for the next economic downturn so that education and […]

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California Property Tax Gets Low Grade for Transparency

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

With all the talk about the property tax and who pays more, residential or commercial property owners, there is a more basic issue that is missed: Where does the money go? In the case of the income tax, we know which government gets the money: the state. But from the property taxpayer’s perspective, it is […]

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New Ideas for our Fiscal Path Forward

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

The topic of conversation, lately, no matter who you’re talking to, seems to revolve around California’s budget nightmare and the trickle-down effect it has, starting from the top, the state, to the bottom, with municipalities. How did we get here and what drastic measures need to be taken in order to get our Golden State […]

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Legislature Fails to Keep Sacramento Honest

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

As the press peels back the onion on the issue of budgeting practices and special funds, it is important to see why this is a contemporary problem and why it has not been the focus of anyone’s attention Conventional wisdom Our state budgeting practices have not changed since the 1970s. The state’s fiscal condition has always […]

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California Budget Making – Back to the Good Old Days

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

The good old days of secret budgeting are back and the primary victim is a transparent government. There was a time, over forty years ago when the final state budget was written in secret. The final budget deal was hammered out in a secret conference held in the Senate Lounge. The bipartisan group that included […]

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Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of Forecasted Operating Deficits

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

Once again the Legislative Analyst has pulled back the curtain on California’s budgeting practices, announcing last week that the state is likely to have a $3 billion deficit at the end of this fiscal year. This means we can expect significant mid-year cuts to education and social services programs under the budget “trigger” mechanism. That […]

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Assembly to decide on future of strong budget reforms

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

It is now up to members of the
California Assembly to decide whether two of California Forward’s important fiscal
reforms will move forward.

Yesterday, the Assembly
Budget Committee
approved SB 14
(performance-based budgeting) and SB 15 (multi-year
fiscal forecasting), which will bring a new budgeting system to California that
increases stability, focuses on program results and looks to the future.

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Budget making back to the future…

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

In an era when more and more Californians are demanding accountability and transparency in government, our budgeting process has slid back into the cloaked era of the past.

Fifty years ago, the California budget was put together in a back room. Those in attendance included the Department of Finance representing the Governor; the budget committee chairs and vices chairs representing the legislative leadership; and the legislative analyst. The budget they created was then handed the legislature for approval and finally sent to the governor. These budgets usually garnered 2/3 of the legislative vote, and nobody knew what deals went into the process until after the governor signed the budget in question.

In the early 1970’s, a group of lawmakers revolted and pushed for a more open process. This led to more transparent and later televised legislative discussions that included the administration and legislative analyst.

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Controller becomes deputy to new sheriff in town

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

When California Controller John Chiang decided on Tuesday that
legislators would not be paid, he did so by connecting two provisions in the
Constitution – one approved in 2004 (Proposition 58) that required budgets
to be balanced –  and the other approved
last year (Proposition 25) that prohibited legislative pay if the budget
is not passed by June 15.

Many lawmakers have taken issue with the controller’s decision,
and some have threatened to sue to get their pay reinstated. 

The dispute over what constitutes "fiscal balance" has been with
us for a long time, even before Prop 58. California’s state budgeting
process has always been based on an agreement between the legislature
and the governor about what fiscal balance means in a given year, with the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) providing commentary.

That LAO commentary often deals with identifying
"threats" to fiscal health – sometimes through the courts – and the
ability of the administration to achieve savings in the adopted budget.

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The Missing Piece of the Budget Puzzle

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

The 2011-12
budget plan introduced by Governor Brown on Monday includes major pieces of the
fiscal puzzle that at long last will hopefully bring fiscal balance back to California.

Unlike prior
budget plans purporting to close the state’s widening deficits, this one
actually proposes long-term structural changes to bring California out of its
fiscal hole. One big difference is the budget proposed by Governor Brown does
not rely on one-time spending reductions or gimmicks. It seeks to permanently
change the makeup and extent of state spending to balance revenues and
expenditures. It is important to recognize that the plan anticipates extending
temporary revenue increases to get important state services – such as education
and health and human services – through an economic condition that is
improving, but not quickly enough.

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