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After five years of opening California’s governments to the public, developing data-driven policy analysis, and educating citizens about how California governments work, the California Common Sense team is proud to announce our nationwide expansion to United States Common Sense.

Our mission remains the same, but we are excited to now provide data, open government resources, and analysis relevant to all 50 states and their local governments.

In addition to our CACS work, you can find our newly-enhanced nationwide research and data products at

With your support, we’ll continue striving to make governments across the country more open, more accessible, and more accountable to you.


The US Common Sense Team


USCS in the Press


LA Weekly – State Officials Just Raised Your Utility Rates When You Weren’t Looking

In a statement, the five-member PUC called the new system “a more effective and cost-based structure, empowering consumers with more opportunities to conserve, and promoting resource optimization and grid reliability.” President Michael Picker: “The world has changed since 2001, when rates were frozen by the Legislature. Over time, with lower-tier rates being frozen, the five-tiered rate structure departed increasingly from any cost basis and imposed even greater inequities on large family households that were pushed into higher tiers in hot climate zones. Our decision helps align rates with the actual cost of service.” The world has changed, all right. The rich have gotten much, much richer. A report by California Common Sense found that while overall income increased in the Golden State two years after the Great Recession, “The bottom 99 percent’s combined income actually decreased.”


Watchdog: CA’s knees tremble under the weight of a $443 billion debt

In Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2014-15 budget, officials claimed the state’s ‘wall of debt’ amounted to $26.2 billion. Short-term debts account for most of the debt total, according to officials. Payments to community colleges, schools, and the state’s Medicaid program are named as those mainly responsible for said short-term debts. But despite state officials’ claims, the actual amount of debt in California goes beyond Brown’s official assessment.

Sacramento Bee – Budget deal brings major changes to University of California pension system

Any savings won’t be realized for decades, however. Until then, stabilizing the fund, and curbing how much it eats into the university’s multibillion-dollar annual operations, will largely depend on whether UC, and the state, remain committed to paying down the current debts. “Tackling the problem from both ends, it definitely does help the health of the system,” said Adam Tatum, who studies retirement systems for California Common Sense, a policy research organization. “In order for the UC to plan going forward, they need to know to what extent they can depend on the state.”


Sunlight Foundation – OpenGov Voices: Crowdsourcing state and local transparency

According to census figures, the U.S. has over 91,000 state and local governments. The vast majority of these institutions produce documents that affect the citizens they serve. While many individual governments offer document repositories and diligently respond to public records requests, disclosure is inconsistent and not standardized. This poses challenges for researchers who wish to compare multiple governments. California Common Sense (CACS), a think tank focused on data-driven policy analysis, encountered this problem and has devised an interesting solution. CACS is collecting a large number of local government documents, storing the documents on the cloud and making them available to other researchers. The group is also encouraging governments, researchers and citizens to contribute additional documents for hosting on the CACS cloud.


Daily Bruin – State budget’s pension deal met with concerns from UC faculty

Some experts have said they think the changes in the pension plan are necessary, given the financial condition of the UC’s pension liability. Adam Tatum, research director of California Common Sense, a think tank dedicated to public policy, said he thinks the UC’s pension liability should be one of the University’s primary concerns. “The liability of the UC (is) very high right now,” Tatum said. “They haven’t developed overnight and most certainly won’t be solved overnight.”

Fox & Hounds – California: A Textbook Example of the Perils of Short-Sighted Policy

From a budget stand-point, taken together, California’s last 15 years are a textbook example of the perils of short-sighted policy. Long-term planning and fiscal responsibility are always public goods, but the state government’s budgeting decisions have now taken them from good governance principles to practical necessities. As it turns out, years of short-sightedness tends to beget short-sightedness, thereby limiting any real discretion policymakers may want (or actually think they have).

Sacramento Bee – Sac City trustees struggle to fill huge gap in retirees’ medical fund Read more here

In a survey last year of California’s 300 largest K-12 districts, California Common Sense found that 87 percent had no funding set aside for promised retiree health benefits. The Mountain View-based nonprofit has called on state and local governments to tackle pension costs. In the Sacramento district, the unfunded health benefit liability amounts to nearly $13,300 per student, the group said. That puts Sacramento behind only the Los Angeles and Fresno unified school districts in the per-student cost comparison.

Reason – California Tax Hike Touted as Landmark Tax Reform

Indeed, the top one percent of income earners pay more than 50 percent of the state’s overall revenues, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The state’s tax structure would top the list of any issues ripe for serious bipartisan deal making. And a recent study makes the issue more pressing. “We’ve found that income inequality between the top one percent and bottom 99 percent rose with economic growth and fell with economic slowdowns,” according to Autumn Carter, of the reform-oriented California Common Sense. “California has staked the bulk of its annual budget on the one ercent’s ability to keep growing its income through taxable income like capital gains. We’re actually balancing our state budget on income inequality.”

Contra Costa Times – Richmond’s $446 million retirement debt works out to about $4,150 for every city resident

In California, the state, University of California, cities, counties and the top 300 school districts have set aside less than 5 percent of the roughly $158 billion they should have built up by now for retiree health care, according to a 2014 survey by California Common Sense, a Mountain View-based non-partisan think tank. For Richmond to pay off its $126 million debt over 30 years requires spending about $13 million annually, or about $9 million more than the current cost of directly paying the benefits out of city funds. With the additional funding, in nine years, the debt would be cut nearly in half.

OC Register – Make a deal on retirement benefits

In his January 2015 budget proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged that unfunded liabilities for retiree health care costs for state employees now stand at $72 billion and will increase to $90 billion if nothing is done. The tab for taxpayers is higher when factoring in health care benefits for local government retirees. In estimating the costs for both state and local government workers, the nonprofit California Common Sense found an unfunded retiree health care liability of $157.7 billion.

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