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Every year, California’s governor and Legislature adopt a state budget that provides a framework and funding for critical public services and systems — from child care and health care to housing and transportation to colleges and K-12 schools.

But the state budget is about more than dollars and cents.

The budget expresses our values as well as our priorities for Californians and as a state. At its best, the budget should reflect our collective efforts to expand economic opportunities, promote well-being, and improve the lives of Californians who are denied the chance to share in our state’s wealth and who deserve the dignity and support to lead thriving lives. State budget choices have an impact on all Californians. These decisions affect the quality of our schools and health care, the cost of a college education, families’ access to affordable child care and housing, the availability of services and financial support to help older adults age in place, and so much more.

The budget expresses our values as well as our priorities for Californians and as a state.

Because the state budget touches so many services and our everyday lives, it is critical for Californians to understand and participate in the annual budget process to ensure that state leaders are making the strategic choices needed to allow every Californian — from different races, backgrounds, and places — to thrive and share in our state’s economic and social life.

This guide sheds light on the state budget and the budget process with the goal of giving Californians the tools they need to effectively engage decision makers and advocate for fair and just policy choices.

State Budget Terms defined

What’s the difference between a trailer bill and a policy bill? A surplus and an operating surplus? Special funds and the General Fund? And what exactly is a “Budget Bill Jr.”? Our Glossary of State Budget Terms answers that and more.

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