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$31.5B Deficit After a $97.5B Surplus. How Did CA Get in This Mess?



CA had a $97.5B surplus last year but now faces a $31.5B gap due to its reliance on personal income taxes, including capital gains. (AP File)
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John Osborn D’Agostino

Jeremia Kimelman

This time last year, there was excitement and possibility over how to spend a record $97.5 billion budget surplus, a shocking figure coming at the end of a bruising COVID-19 pandemic.

But this year, excitement has turned into a fight over what not to cut as the state stares down a $31.5 billion budget gap.

How did this budget whiplash happen?

To understand how the state could, in one year, have a revenue swing of about $128.5 billion requires a look at how the state raises money for the general fund — the big pot of money that funds most state programs — and a few other complicated aspects of how California juggles competing budget requirements.

About the Authors
John Osborn D’Agostino is an award-winning data journalist, web developer and game designer. Previously, he’s worked with The Hechinger Report, EdSource, the East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and the North Coast Journal. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Jeremia is a data journalist who uses code and data to make policy and politicians easier to understand. He was previously a graphics editor at the COVID Tracking Project and a data journalist at NBC News covering elections and national politics. He grew up in California and is excited to be back home after an extended time as a New Yorker. When he isn’t on the computer you can find him out in the garden or on a bicycle.

About CalMatters
CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.


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