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California Legislative Analyst's Office

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Staff meeting at the LAO office
The California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) is an agency of the California government.

It is overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of the California State Legislature. In January 2013, the LAO had a staff of 43 analysts and 13 support staff.

The LAO performs and publishes extensive analysis of the state's budget.

Given the multitude of ballot propositions that regularly appear on the state ballot, one important function performed by CLAO is to produce nonpartisan descriptions and analyses of ballot initiatives.


The California Legislative Analyst's Office has provided fiscal and policy analysis for the California Legislature since the 1940s.[1].

Services offered

Ballot summaries

For each ballot proposition that is set to appear on a statewide ballot in California, the LAO is charged in Section 9085 of the California Elections Code with providing a ballot summary. This responsibility was given to the LAO in June 1974 with the enactment of Proposition 9.

The summaries include fiscal analysis of a proposed ballot measure before circulation and analyzes all ballot measures that qualify on the ballot[2]

Budget control

The California Legislative Analyst's Office plays a major role in the California State Budget. The LAO plays a role as "budget control" as they review requests to revisions for the state budget once after it is enacted into law. This process is used often by members of the California Joint Legislative Budget Committee and other fiscal committees in the California Legislature[2].

California budget

Budget analysis and forecasting is the main feature of the California Legislative Analyst's Office. The LAO forecasts all of California's revenues and expenditures[2]. Also, the LAO publishes the state budget and in addition publishes an annual review of the state budget at the end of each February[2].

Special reports and analyses

State liabilities report

In May 2014, the LAO released a report on California's retirement, infrastructure, and budgetary liabilities. The report found that total liabilities equaled $340 billion while also offering a plan for repaying the liabilities and in which order.[3]

The LAO suggested that liabilities with higher interest rates and benefits for groups or citizens not associated with the state government ought to be repaid first. Specifically, the LAO also recommended that a funding plan for the California State Teachers' Retirement System was a large priority for addressing California's liabilities.[3]

Furthermore, the LAO stated that nearly $140 billion of the current liabilities did not require changes to present law and policy, specifically liabilities involved with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and state employee pension benefits.[3]

"Cal Facts"

In January 2011, the LAO released a 64-page document called "Cal Facts."[4]

The document includes a summary of the 18 California statewide ballot propositions since Proposition 13 that impose restrictions on state and local budgeting.[5]

"The 2010-11 Budget"

The LAO released a document, "The 2010-11 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook," on November 18, 2009. The report says ."..the state must address a General Fund budget problem of $20.7 billion between now and the time the Legislature enacts a 2010–11 state budget plan. The budget problem consists of a $6.3 billion projected deficit for 2009–10 and a $14.4 billion gap between projected revenues and spending in 2010–11. Addressing this large shortfall will require painful choices—on top of the difficult choices the Legislature made earlier this year." The report also says "The vast majority" of the current year problem can be attributed to the state's inability to implement several major solutions in the July 2009 budget plan."[6]

The hard-hitting report was written by LAO Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and other LAO staff.

John Myers, the Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED's "The California Report," said that Taylor is "quickly gaining a reputation for telling the ugly truth to power."[7]

Myers says of the November LAO report that it "makes it clear that the current problem really lies at the feet of 120 legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."[7]

The November LAO analysis says that because of the way California Proposition 98 (1988) is worded, California's declining revenues translate into an extra $1 billion for the state's public schools, even as revenues available for other programs shrink. According to Myers, "In a nutshell: Prop 98 ties school funding, in part, to year-to-year changes in state revenue. But the year-to-year changes projected by this year's budget deal ended up being wrong, making it seem as though revenues are growing faster than projected, thus guaranteeing schools more money. Remember, this is contrary to reality, where revenues are actually declining. Nonetheless, you can expect education advocates to demand that $1 billion ASAP, given the budget reductions to schools over the past two years."[7]

See also

External links