6 Key Measures of California's Fiscal Health

Senator Moorlach's Notes on Analyzing the Governor's 2016-17 Budget Proposal
Thursday, January 7, 2016

1. California's Net Financial Position

CA’s “net” financial position is a $117 billion deficit, ($3,014 per person) according to the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

This figure should be positive for healthy organizations.  It’s derived by tallying the state government’s assets (monetary funds, investments, buildings, roadways, bridges, parks, etc.) and subtracting its obligations. The last positive number CA had was Gov. Pete Wilson’s last term with $1.5 billion in net assets.

CA now ranks among the worst states, just above Illinois, whose net position is a negative $68.3 billion, or $5,335 per person. Illinois’ finances are so bad, they’re telling lottery winners that they have to delay their payments. 

2. Estimates of CA Unfunded Pension Liabilities

CalPERS:     $  96.7 billion

CalSTRS:         72.7 billion

UC Pensions:     12.1 billion

NOTE: For the 2014/15 fiscal year, CalPERS planned for a 7.5% rate of return, but only managed a 2.4% rate of return.

3. Current Unfunded Retiree Medical Liability

CA has the nation’s highest unfunded retiree medical liability at $71.8 billion.

4. CA's Transportation Infrastructure

5. CA's Business & Economic Competitiveness

  • CA has the nation’s highest income, sales and gas taxes, when cap and trade is included. CA also has the highest corporate tax in the Western United States and the 14th highest property tax.  According to the Tax Foundation’s 2015 Facts and Figures (link is external), that puts California fourth in overall tax burden on a per capita basis.

  • For the 11th year in a row, CA was named the worst state for business in a survey of 500 CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine.

6. Budget Leftovers From Last Year

  • Medi-Cal Shortfall:
    CA is not reimbursing doctors enough for Medi-Cal visits. Therefore, doctors have stopped taking Medi-Cal patients.  Rather than use $1.1 billion from this last year’s $7 billion increase in general fund spending from the year before to backfill the Medi-Cal system, the legislature instead tried to raise cigarette taxes by $2 per pack to fund this shortfall.

  • Unemployment Insurance Fund:
    In January 26, 2009, the California state government borrowed $10 billion from the federal government to cover its Unemployment Insurance Fund. As of June 3, 2015, it still owed $8 billion.  The 2015 interest payment on the loan totaled $174.5 million.  By leaving this unpaid, CA employers are now being forced to cover the payments through increased federal unemployment payroll taxes.


Press Contact: Amanda Smith @ 714-662-6050, amanda.smith@sen.ca.gov

State Senator John Moorlach is a nationally recognized budget, finance, and fiscal policy expert. Moorlach graduated from CA State University in Long Beach in 1977, passed the C.P.A. exam in 1978, and completed his studies for the Certified Financial Planner designation in 1987. He earned a Certificate in Public Finance from the University of Delaware, Division of Continuing Education in 1995, the Certificate of Achievement in Public Plan Policy (CAPPP) in Employee Pensions in 1999 and the Trustees Masters Program in 2003 through the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, and the New Supervisors Training Institute in 2007 from CA State University in Sacramento in cooperation with their Center for California Studies.