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Controller Report Finds Improved Budget Health, Deficits

By most measures, the state of California achieved a budget surplus in the last fiscal year. But a new report from the state Controller’s Office calculates a deficit.

First, the report agrees California’s finances improved in the past fiscal year.

"We brought in more revenue than money going out the door," says John Hill, press secretary for the state Controller. "And so, that’s a good thing for the state’s bottom line."

But for the first time, the report compares that surplus to the future cost of retiree pensions—even though they’re not due yet. California has $64 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

"The amount that California will have to pay to future pensioners hasn’t changed," says Hill. "What’s changed is the way that it’s accounted for, and that makes the number appear larger."

The report also calculates the net deficit, including bond debt, pensions and other employee-related liabilities, while subtracting assets the state can’t sell.

By that measure, California has $175 billion on its books it can’t currently pay for.

Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio