featured graphic for California State Legislative Analyst's Office during COVID-19

Highlights of recent LAO publications

In response to the changes to the state’s budget process required by the pandemic, our office will be publishing shorter, more focused budget analyses over the next few months. Given this change, rather than sending out an announcement for each publication, we will provide periodic updates with the key takeaways from our recent pieces. The highlights of our recent work are below. All of our 2021-22 budget analyses to date can be found here.

The 2021-22 Budget: Improving Legislative Oversight of Emergency Spending Authorities

  • Governor Has Broad Emergency Spending Authorities. For example, the administration can allocate funds from the Disaster-Response Emergency Operations Account (DREOA) for emergencies with minimal legislative notification. The administration has made extensive use of these authorities during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Governor’s Proposals for COVID-19 Emergency Spending and Authority. The Governor proposes to extend the use of DREOA for COVID-19 through 2021‑22, as it would otherwise expire at the end of 2020‑21 under current law. The Governor also requests administrative authority to (1) shift between various departments $1.4 billion in funds proposed in the 2021‑22 budget for COVID-19 and (2) spend federal and private funds on COVID-19.
  • Governor’s Proposals Raise Various Concerns. Under the proposal to extend the use of DREOA for COVID-19, there would be no reasonable checks and balances on the Governor’s COVID-19 spending authority. This concern is reflective of the larger problems associated with the state’s existing emergency spending authorities that allow the Governor to spend an essentially unlimited amount of funds with little legislative oversight.
  • Recommendations to Ensure Sufficient Legislative Oversight. Given the nature of the COVID-19 emergency, it is reasonable to give the Governor some spending flexibility. However, we recommend the Legislature adopt legislation to make fundamental changes to the Governor’s overall emergency spending authorities and consider a new budget control section process specific for COVID-19. Additionally, we recommend modifying the proposed authority to transfer funds budgeted for COVID-19 to require legislative notification. Finally, we recommend rejecting the proposed flexibility to spend federal and private funds.
This article was released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.