Here’s the most detailed visual of the California budget we know of—come get lost in it
A mutant octopus? A psychedelic Rorschach test? The world’s most elaborate Chinese finger trap?
No, this CALmatters creation is the California state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Follow its fiscal tributaries from tax revenues on the left to spending on the right, and you’ll see where the state’s priorities lie—all 183 billion of them.
Curious how the state gathers and spends its (that is to say, your) money? Take a look around (by zooming with your trackpad or mouse wheel or by looking up something specific using the search bar) and see for yourself.
Lost already? Here are few budgetary milestones to help you make sense of all of this:
The $183 billion cash pot we call the “state budget” is actually a collection of many separate funds. The biggest of these is the “General Fund” (the big gold colored one above). That’s where most of the state’s income and sales taxes go and lawmakers get to spend that money more or less as they please (though some restrictions still apply).
The rest of the budget is made up of “special funds” (dark blue). There are over five hundred of these, and unlike the General Fund, each special fund can only take in money from a designated source and spend it on designated things. For example, the gas tax which can only be spent on transportation-related projects.
Perhaps you heard that the gas tax was raised this year. You’ll find these new revenue sources highlighted red among the cluster of yellow motor vehicle-related taxes and fees on the left of the diagram.
Once the state gathers all of its money from the various taxes and fees (the lion’s share comes from the personal income tax, but don’t overlook other important sources of state funding, like horse racing fines and the private rail car tax), it gets divvied up and spent across twelve major spending areas.
Some of those areas get more fiscal attention than others. Way more. In fact, if you take out health care, social welfare programs, and K-12 education, there isn’t much left. If you thought the state spends the bulk of its money on prisons, think again: If the Department of Corrections weren’t shaded “Inmate Coverall Orange,” you might not be able to find it.
As for the state’s spending on toxic substances control, on its early payment to the CalPERS pension system, its just-in-case rainy day fund, or so many of the important and hotly debated topics we’ve covered over the last year, we challenge you to find them for yourself. (Hint: you’ll want to factor in some zooming time).
Other spending areas are a little easier to spot. Once you include the nearly $70 billion in federal spending, the Department of Health Care Services (which runs Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid health coverage for its poorer residents) is almost as big as the General Fund.
Overall, state programs receive an eye-popping $107 billion from the federal government—yet according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California citizens still send more back to D.C. in taxes every year. By the way, we’re only looking at state and federal spending. Other sources of revenue, like, say tuition fees for the University of California system, aren’t shown here.
And for any of you finance geeks who might take issue with the way we’ve counted bond spending, a caveat: The diagram depicts both fresh cash from newly issued bonds and money that goes toward paying down old debt as spending. Why does that matter? It means we’re counting both loans and repayments as new uses of state resources, which isn’t strictly true. Still, we thought it was important to show as much as possible, as simply as possible. A tough task when it comes to California’s state budget.
So go ahead. Dive in. And let us know what you find.