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June 4, 2020 - Assembly Committee on Local Government and Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation
May 20, 2020 - The May Revision includes a number of revenue-related proposals. This post describes these proposals and offers our initial comments and recommendations. We also offer alternative revenue options that the Legislature could consider.
March 30, 2020 - California Competes is an economic development tax incentive program that allows the administration to negotiate tax credit agreements with individual companies that agree to meet multiyear hiring and investment targets. In this report we provide background information about the California Competes program and the changes that the Legislature made in 2018. Next, we describe the effects of these changes on the program in 2018‑19, the first year of their implementation. We then assess how the changes have affected the administration of the California Competes program and consider whether it is more or less effective than before. Lastly, looking forward, we suggest working to find ways to expand the pool of qualified applicants and advise the Legislature to continue its oversight of the program.
March 23, 2020 - In this budget analysis brief, we provide background information on the current tax expenditure and assess the merits of the administration’s proposal to expand it. We conclude that the Legislature should reject the Governor’s proposal. We further suggest the Legislature reconsider the current exemption.
March 20, 2020 - The Governor’s 2020-21 budget includes proposals related to CDTFA’s administration of cannabis taxes, tobacco taxes, and fuel taxes. In this post, we discuss some budget reductions included in the cannabis and tobacco proposals, and we assess the adequacy of the fuel tax proposal.
February 24, 2020 - In this report, we discuss issues for the Legislature to consider as it decides whether to change the state’s approach to taxing e‑cigarettes. We find that a tax based on nicotine content has some advantages. We also suggest that the Legislature consider a wide range of possible tax rates. Once the Legislature has chosen a rate, we recommend indexing the rate to inflation and revisiting it frequently to assess whether further adjustments are warranted. If the Legislature chooses to enact a new tax on e‑cigarettes, we recommend that it take an approach to revenue allocation that prioritizes flexibility.
January 13, 2020 - This report presents our office’s initial assessment of the Governor’s budget. We estimate the Governor had a $6 billion surplus to allocate to discretionary purposes in 2020-21. The Governor allocates most of the surplus toward one-time purposes, including maintaining a positive year-end balance in the state’s discretionary reserve. Under the administration’s estimates, total reserves would reach $20.5 billion at the end of 2020-21—this represents a $1.7 billion increase from the 2019-20 enacted level. California continues to enjoy a healthy fiscal situation. Despite its positive near-term picture, the budget’s multiyear outlook is subject to considerable uncertainty. In addition to describing the condition of the budget under the Governor’s proposal, this report discusses tools the Legislature can use to mitigate against these heightened risks.
January 20, 2020: Upon further review, one item included in the original version of Appendix Figure 3 on discretionary on health spending should not have been included (specfically, use of the Medi-Cal drug rebate fund to offset General Fund costs). Removing this item—which reduces General Fund spending—from the list of discretionary choices made in the Governor’s budget increases our calculation of the surplus to $6 billion. The document is updated to reflect these changes.
Update 1/24/20: Adjusted Judicial Branch items in Appendix Figure 1 to reflect ongoing spending.
December 17, 2019 - In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized the nonmedical use of cannabis (typically called recreational or adult use) and created a structure for regulating and taxing it. In this report we provide (1) background information on cannabis and its legalization in California, (2) a discussion of the effects of adjusting the tax rate, (3) an assessment of other potential changes to California’s cannabis tax structure, and (4) recommendations for the Legislature.
December 17, 2019 - In this post, we discuss a key interaction between sales taxes and other taxes on cannabis retailers—in particular, local business taxes. Due to this opaque, counterintuitive interaction, the overall tax rate on cannabis is slightly higher than it appears to be. We recommend that the Legislature make statutory changes to address this issue.
December 17, 2019 - In this post, we describe some of the similarities and differences between taxes on cannabis and taxes on other products in California. Our estimates suggest that taxes on certain cannabis products are roughly comparable to taxes on distilled spirits but much higher than taxes on beer and wine. California’s state and local governments generally tax cannabis—including medical cannabis—more heavily than other medicines. In some instances, however, exemptions can make tax rates on medical cannabis comparable to tax rates on other medicines.
October 17, 2019 - This post describes the 2019-20 budget actions changing state individual and business tax provisions (partial tax conformity).
October 17, 2019 - This post describes the 2019-20 budget actions to expand the state earned income tax credit (EITC).
September 5, 2019 - California is the wealthiest state in the nation. Despite this overall prosperity, wealth varies considerably across the state and its residents. The concentration of wealth among a small number of very wealthy individuals and households has been the topic of much research and commentary in recent years. Perhaps less discussed is the similarly uneven geographical distribution of wealth. This publication provides a short introduction to the geography of wealth in California.
September 3, 2019 - Similar to the state’s budget situation, the state’s cash situation is now very positive. However, this has not always been—nor will it always be—the case. This report includes a history of the state's cash management situation, in particular emphasizing why the state’s cash position has improved so much. This report goes on to describe some recent and novel actions to borrow from the state's cash resources and offers policymakers a framework to evaluate any future borrowing of this nature, should a proposal to do so arise. Given that the state's cash position will inevitably change in the future, we suggest the Legislature be cautious about approving additional proposals to make loans from the state's cash resources. Assessing a proposed loan using the criteria in this report may help determine whether its benefits exceed its costs.
June 4, 2019 - Presented to: Budget Conference Committee