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California budget receives strong grades on forecasting and reserves practices, but the state falls short on pensions

December 12, 2018

Today the Volcker Alliance released its second annual report comparing state budgeting practices across all 50 U.S. states. The report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: Preventing the Next Fiscal Crisis, grades states on a scale of A to D- across five categories that measure their ability to maintain balanced and sustainable budgets. As partners of the alliance, researchers at the Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans (BIFYA) tracked California budgeting practices and found that the state is a strong performer in four of five budgeting categories, but continues to be weak in budgeting for legacy costs, specifically, pensions and retiree health care.

The Volcker Alliance is a nonpartisan partnership between academic, business, governmental, and public interest groups. The Truth and Integrity in Government Finance project began in 2016, and it now includes four years of data (2015-18). The project evaluates budgeting practices in the following five categories: Budget forecasting, for both revenues and expenditures; one-time budget maneuvers to offset recurring expenditures; legacy costs, such as how states fund pensions and retiree health care; general fund and rainy day reserve funding; and overall transparency in disclosing budget information.

For three straight years, California earned A grades and was a top performer among U.S. states for its strong budget reserves, budget maneuvers and transparency practices. Yet the state continues to struggle when it comes to its funding of public employee pensions and retiree healthcare. In fact, while the trend across all 50 states was an overall improvement in the funding of these kinds of legacy costs, California’s grades have continued to decline since 2016. The state earned a C in 2016, a D in 2017, and now a D- in 2018.  

Access the report online

Read BIFYA's press release

Upcoming Events

Brown bag series 2019: The California Housing Crisis & Potential Solutions

Check back soon for an update on our 2019 brown bag series!




Past Events

Pre-election discussion: Local housing initiatives in the Bay Area

Featured speaker:

Susannah Parsons, Chief of Staff, President’s Office, SPUR


David Garcia, Policy Director, UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation




Pictured above, Goldman School of Public Policy Postdoctoral Scholar, Seva Rodnyansky, introduced Susannah Parsons of SPUR. 

Susannah Parsons, Chief of Staff of the President’s Office for SPUR, hosted a pre-election discussion about housing ballot initiatives in Oakland and around the Bay Area. This was the first in a series of discussions about the California housing crisis hosted by the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation and the Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans.

Co-sponsors: Terner Center for Housing InnovationBerkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans




Full Agenda

California's Fiscal Outlook: Jerry Brown's Final Budget and the Challenges Ahead, February 21, 2018

Full Agenda

The Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and the Volcker Alliance convened a half-day discussion featuring three panels on California’s budgeting and transparency practices, the state’s unique fiscal landscape, and the fiscal challenges it will face this year and in years to come.

William Glasgall, Senior Vice President and Director of State and Local Initiatives for the Volcker Alliance, presented with Sarah Swanbeck, Executive Director, Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans, on the fiscal practices and challenges facing Western states, including California. Their analysis drew on a 2017 Volcker Alliance report Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: What is the Reality? that assesses the quality of all fifty states’ budgeting practices. The report—and accompanying budget report cards for each state—is the product of a multi-year study conducted in partnership with more than fifty professors and graduate students in public finance and budgeting at eleven US schools of public administration or policy, including Ms. Swanbeck and researchers at UC Berkeley.

California's Fiscal Health in Context: The State of the Western States

Fiscal Realities: California's Revenue Volatilty 

Legacy Costs, Aging Populations, and Budget Trade-Offs

#NextCA Summit, August 16, 2017

Full Agenda

Last summer, the Goldman School of Public Policy brought together young leaders from all over the state to talk about our generation's vision for a better future in the Golden State. As young Californians, as part of the most diverse generation in history, and as part of the state that is this country's strongest economic driver, we have a unique opportunity to set the agenda for what we want the #NextCA to look like.

This event is an annual leadership summit to discuss how young activists in California can help lead a national movement for better education, jobs, healthcare, and security for young people.

Social Impact Job Fair, March 22, 2017

The most difficult problems of our time require a strong public interest technology field.  Local governments, technology companies, and public interest organizations are looking for engineers, analysts, and designers to help solve their biggest challenges. 

Code for America, New America CA, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the UC Berkeley School of Information, and the Center for Technology, Society & Policy hosted this job fair in order for students to learn more about exciting internship and career opportunities from employers. Invited organizations included:

City and County of San Francisco | New America | Bayes Impact | Code for America | PopVox | TechCongress | CA Digital Service | Brigade | Remix | Civic Insight | Center for Democracy and Technology | And more…

Milliennials and the Future of Work Summit, July 21 & 22, 2016


Full Agenda

The Goldman School of Public Policy and the Berkeley Insitute for the Future of Young Americans brought together young California leaders and organizations in the Summer of 2016 to build our generation’s vision for a better future. 

Do Millennials Stand a Chance? Giving the next generation a fair shot at a prosperous future, November 18 2016

Addressing a Pension Funding Crisis in State and Local Government, July 22, 2015   

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