California Department of Finance

Budget Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs are answered using budget Summary Schedules and Charts. This information is updated once or twice a year; thus, the currency of an answer is dependent upon when the inquiry is made. (Please see Background Information for when the Schedules and Charts are updated.)

 

  1. What is the total, or size of the State Budget?
  2. How much has the State Budget increased over the years?
  3. How much have General Fund revenues and expenditures increased over the years?
  4. Where does the State get its money? What are its sources of revenue? Are the revenues coming in as estimated?
  5. What was the size of the State Budget when the governor took office?
  6. What is the State's Surplus?
  7. How much of the Budget is spent on Education? (Or, on some other major program area?)
  8. How much of the State Budget is required to be spent on Education? What is Proposition 98?
  9. How much of the State Budget is spent at the state level? (Or, at the local level, or for Capital Outlay?)
  10. What information is available regarding General Obligation bond proposals?
  11. How much does the state spend on paying off its debts?
  12. What is the State's credit rating?
  13. How much is spent on computers, Information Technology (data processing), equipment, out-of-state travel, or other line-item (object) of expenditure?
  14. What was the actual Budget compared to what was proposed by the Governor?
  15. What is the budget process?
  16. When does the Budget get signed? What's the latest it was signed?
  17. Does the State live within its means? Does it balance its budget?
  18. Does the State have a spending or appropriation limit? What is Proposition 4?
  19. How much are General Fund deficiencies? By major program areas? When is the Deficiency Bill normally signed?
  20. How many state employees are there? How many more employees are there now vs. 20 years ago?

ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED BUDGET QUESTIONS

  1. What is the total, or size of the State Budget?

    There are several ways to look at budget totals. Expenditures of:

    a. General Fund = General Fund Budget Totals;

    b. "a." and Special Funds = Budget Expenditure Totals;

    c. "b." and Selected Bond Funds = Expenditure Totals including Bond Funds;

    d. "c." Federal Funds = Expenditure Totals including Federal Funds; and

    e. "d." and Nongovernmental Cost Funds = Total State Spending Plan.

    All of these could be considered the Budget Total; "c" is the most commonly used and "b" the next.

    See Chart B, Historical Data, Budget Expenditures, All Funds; Schedule 1, General Budget Summary; Schedule 2, Total State Spending Plan; and Schedule 9,Comparative Statement of Expenditures by Organization Unit, Character, Function and Fund. Also see Glossary of Budget Terms and Description of Fund Classifications in the (State) Treasury. (Return)


  2. How much has the State Budget increased over the years?

    See Chart B, Historical Data, Budget Expenditures, All Funds. (Return)


  3. How much have General Fund revenues and expenditures increased over the years?

    See Chart A-1, General Fund History, Revenues, Transfers vs. Expenditures. (Return)


  4. Where does the State get its money? What are its sources of revenue? Are the revenues coming in as estimated?

    See Governor's Budget Summary, Revenue Estimates, under our Budget Documents pages; Schedule 8; and Monthly Revenue Bulletins, also under our Budget Documents page.(Return)


  5. What was the size of the State Budget when the governor took office?

    Governor Gray Davis took Office in January 1999 and his first Budget was for the 1999-00 fiscal year.  Governor Pete Wilson's first Budget was 1991-92; Governor George Dukemejian's 1983-84 and Governor Edmund G. Brown  Jr's 1975-76.

    See Chart B, Historical Data, Budget Expenditures, All Funds, for the size of the state budget any particular year.  Also see question #1 above. (Return)


  6. What is the State's Surplus?

    The State's "Surplus" is commonly thought of either as the unreserved fund balance of the General Fund, i.e., the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties (SFEU), or a "windfall" in the State's revenues.

    From the governmental budgeting and legal perspectives, the former interpretation is more appropriate. It is the SFEU that provides a source of funds for the general activities of the State in the event of a decline in revenues or an unanticipated increase in expenditures. This is also the residual of total resources after total expenditures and all legal reserves (such as reserve for encumbrances). However, since there are hundreds of funds in the State, each fund is a separate legal entity, and the balance of a fund other than the General Fund generally cannot be used for purposes of another fund, there is no (single) State Surplus.

    Despite being outdated and somewhat misleading, the term "surplus" is widely used, especially in the news. It is often used to represent a "windfall" in unanticipated revenues. When a new projection of revenues is made and total revenues are estimated to be higher than previously assumed, the news media often calls the additional amount "surplus". This "surplus" can be for past, current and/or budget years depending on the point of comparison, either to the Budget Act or to the Governor's Budget. In either case, the amount of revenues above the previous projection would be included in the updated budget forecast.

    Neither interpretation of "surplus" equates to "cash in the bank". The actual amounts of SFEU or "windfall" are not known until much later--six months after the end of the fiscal year. The amount of revenues is in constant influx from the initial projections to actual collections, which are not known until two years later. Similarly, major caseload-driven costs can vary widely over this period of time.

    See Chart A, Historical Data, General Fund Balance Sheet; Schedule 1, General Budget Summary; and Schedule 10, Summary of Fund Condition by Funds. Also see Glossary of Budget Terms; Description of Fund Classifications in the (State) Treasury; and Department of Finance Glossary. (Return)


  7. How much of the Budget is spent on Education? (Or, on some other major program area?)

    While it has changed over time and changes somewhat from year-to-year, about 52 to 55 percent of the State General Fund Budget is spent on K-12 and Higher Education.

    See Chart E, All Education As a Percentage of General Fund Expenditures; Chart C, General Fund Program (Expenditure) Distribution; Chart C-1, Program Expenditures by Fund; Chart C-2, General Fund Expenditures Increase Over The Prior Year; and Schedule 9, Comparative Statement of Expenditures by Organization Unit, Character, Function and Fund. (Return)


  8. How much of the State Budget is required to be spent on Education? What is Proposition 98?

    Proposition 98 is an initiative passed in November 1988 and amended in June of 1990 by Proposition 111. It provides a minimum funding guarantee for school districts, community college districts, and other state agencies that provide direct elementary and secondary instructional programs for kindergarten through grade 14 (K-14).

    The State's share of the guarantee is based on General Fund tax proceeds and is not based on the General Fund in total or on the State Budget. Its cost-of-living, population, local property tax proceeds (the local share of the total guarantee) and various other formulas and tests result in the calculation of an amount that is required to be appropriated by the state for K-14. The amount varies from year-to-year and throughout the stages of a fiscal year's budget (from the initial Governor's Budget proposal to actual expenditures), as the various factors change.

    Proposition 98's share of General Fund tax proceeds averages about 40 percent. As a percentage of new (additional) General Fund tax revenues, Proposition 98 gets approximately 60 percent. That is, for an increase in General Fund tax proceeds of $100 million, Proposition 98 would get about $60 million on the average.

    See Chart E, Proposition 98, General Fund, K-14; Chart C-3 Proposition 98 Expenditures, General Fund; Also see the Governor's Budget Summary, Elementary and Secondary Education under our Budget Documents pages. Also see Glossary of Budget Terms and Department of Finance Glossary. (Return)


  9. How much of the State Budget is spent at the state level? (Or, at the local level, or for Capital Outlay?)

    See Chart F, Expenditures by Character, All Funds; and Schedule 9, Comparative Statement of Expenditures by Organization Unit, Character, Function, and Fund. (Return)


  10. What information is available regarding General Obligation bond proposals?

Which bond ballot proposals have been approved since 1972? See Chart K-7.

How much in bonds has been approved since 1972 for various program areas, such as Public Safety (Prisons and Jails)? See the Chart K-8 series.

Chart K-8a Chart K-8c Chart K-8e
Chart K-8b Chart K-8d Chart K-8f

 

How many bonds have been approved since 1972 for various program areas, such as K-12 or Higher Education? See Chart K-9.

What percentage of the voters voted for or against a specific bond proposal since 1972? See Chart K-7.

Whether a specific bond proposal submitted to the voters since 1972 qualified for the ballot through legislation or through the initiative process. See Chart K-7(Return)

 


  1. How much does the State spend on paying off its debts?

    Most of the State's Debt is long-term, used to finance capital projects, and owed to holders of the state's General Obligation and Lease-Revenue bonds. Short-term debt of the state's General Fund is for cash flow purposes and consists of external borrowing (normally Revenue Anticipation Notes, RANs) and internal borrowing (borrowing from other funds within the state).

    See Chart K-1, General Fund G.O. Bond Interest and Redemption Costs; Chart K-2, General Fund Lease-Revenue Bond Interest and Redemption Costs; Chart K-3, General Fund G.O. and Lease-Revenue Bond Interest and Redemption Costs; Chart K-4, General Obligation Bonds; Chart K, Bond Interest and Redemption, Agency Debt Service Costs; and Schedule 11, Statement of Bonded Debt as of December 31, 1996, General Obligation Bonds. (Return)


  2. What is the State's credit rating?

    The State's General Obligation Bonds are rated by the three rating agencies.

    See Chart K-5, California Municipal Bonds Rating History: Chart K-6, History of California General Obligation Bond Ratings. (Return)


  3. How much is spent on computers, Information Technology (data processing), equipment, out-of-state travel, or other line-item (object) of expenditure?

    The State does not accumulate statewide data at this low level of expenditure, only individual departments maintain such data in their accounting and budgeting systems. (Return)


  4. What was the actual Budget compared to what was proposed by the Governor?

    See Chart G, Proposed, Enacted, Mid-Year Revised and Actual Budget Expenditure Data, All Funds; and Chart H, Historical Data, Proposed, Enacted, Mid-Year Revised, and Actual Expenditure Data, General Fund. Also see Budget Process flowchart and/or explanation. (Return)


  5. What is the budget process?

    See Budget Process flowchart and/or explanation. (Return)


  6. When does the Budget get signed? What's the latest it was signed?

    See Chart P, Historical Data, Dates for May Revision and Budget Bill Enactment. (Return)


  7. How much did the Governor veto from the Budget?

See Chart P-1, Historical Data, Budget Act Dates and Veto Information.

 

  1. Does the State live within its means? Does it balance its budget?

    For the General Fund, this can be viewed in at least two ways. Does the General Fund take in more than it spends (called an operating surplus)? Also, does the state spend less than its resources (Beginning Balances and Revenues)?

    See Chart J, Historical Data Growth, Revenues, Transfers and Expenditures, General Fund; and Chart H, Historical Data, Proposed, Enacted, Mid-Year Revised, and Actual Expenditure Data, General Fund. (Return)


  2. Does the State have a spending or appropriation limit? What is Proposition 4?

    Proposition 4 is an initiative passed in November 1979 which generally limits the growth in the level of certain appropriations from tax proceeds to the level of the prior year's appropriation limit as adjusted for changes in the cost of living and population.

    See Chart L, Historical Data, State Appropriations Limit; Schedule 12A, State Appropriations Limit Summary; Schedule 12B, State Appropriations Limit, Revenues To Excluded Funds; Schedule 12C, State Appropriations Limit, Non-Tax Revenues in Funds Subject To Limit; Schedule 12D, State Appropriations Limit, Transfers From Excluded Funds To Included Funds; and Schedule 12E, State Appropriations Limit Exclusions. (Return)


  3. How much are General Fund deficiencies? By major program areas? When is the annual Deficiency Bill normally signed?

    See Chart D-1, General Fund Deficiencies; Chart D, General Fund Deficiencies By Major (Program) Area; and Chart D-2, Annual Deficiency Bill. Also see Department of Finance Glossary. (Return)


  4. How many state employees are there now vs. 20 years ago?

    The Department of Finance tracks Personnel Years, which are the actual or estimated portions of positions expended for the performance of work. The number of Personnel Years is roughly equal to the number of full-time equivalent employees.

    See Chart M, Historical Data, Personnel Years; Chart M-1, Historical Data, Personnel Years by Program Area and Percent Change; Schedule 4A, Personnel Years and Salary Cost Estimates; Schedule 4B, Positions and Salary Cost Estimates; and Schedule 6, Summary of State Population, Employees and Expenditures. Also see Glossary of Budget Terms and Department of Finance Glossary (Authorized Positions and Proposed New Positions). (Return)

Return to the top of this page.

Return to the Department of Finance Home Page