LOS ANGELES — S&P Global Ratings released three reports favorable to California.
The reports, released last week, looked at the state's school districts, budget stability and the upward rating trends that has boosted the state government.
California is now rated AA-minus by S&P, Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service, and AA-minus by Fitch Ratings.
"California Gov. Jerry Brown's emphasis on fiscal reform in the midst of an economic expansion has brought about a turnaround in California's finances that is unmatched among the states since the Great Recession," S&P analysts said in a Sept. 19 report that looked at the state's budget stability.
Analysts also weighed in on how much of state's fiscal recovery is due to Brown and if the state's fiscal health could change when the governor terms out in 2018 and a new governor is elected.
S&P contemplated the governor's reach in the Sept. 19 report, because they have been fielding a lot of questions to that effect, said S&P analyst Gabriel Petek. Those questions arose, in part, from the fact that voters will decide in November whether or not to extend Proposition 30, temporary income and sales taxes passed in 2012.
"We are going into the latter half of the governor's second term," Petek said. "Some of the reforms will live on even after the governor leaves office even if the new administration places less emphasis on good practices from a fiscal standpoint."
Brown was elected to a third gubernatorial term in 2010 and to a fourth term in 2014. The 78-year-old served his first two terms in the 1970s, before term limits were imposed on California governors.
During his tenure, the state's multi-billion budget deficit has been eradicated. He also spearheaded successful ballot campaigns that provided billions in funding for California's schools through Proposition 30 and established a robust rainy day fund through Proposition 2.
California has cut its unemployment rate in half and added more than 2 million new jobs, while enacting sweeping public safety, immigration, workers' compensation, health care, water, pension and economic development reforms, according to the governor's website.
California has ranked among the nation's top-performing states over the past several years and that bodes well for the state's school districts, S&P analysts said in a report focused on the state's schools.
"Despite many difficult decisions—some particularly challenging for the state's school district's—the economic recovery from the Great Recession has helped strengthen the state's finances and correspondingly, made for a more stable fiscal environment for school districts throughout California," S&P analysts said in the report.
Not all of the factors that led to the state's current robust economy and balanced budget were attributable to policy changes, Petek said.
"A lot of it had to do with the governor's own preferred priorities in terms of financial management," Petek said. "That is going to remain an important point in the state's financial profile going forward."
The state's ability to preserve its fiscal position and to keep servicing the programs and people who benefit from the programs will depend on the state not reverting to large fiscal imbalances or having to deal with huge budget gaps, Petek said.
The ratio of debt as a share of the economy and personal income has been in decline since 2011, Petek said.
Debt service also has declined since 2013, but Petek said that comment is made with an asterisk, because a bullet payment made on Proposition 1A caused the debt service to spike.
The fiscal constraints, the rainy day fund reserves, and the state paying down bonds issued in prior administrations to fund operations have put the state in good shape.
"They probably have some debt capacity," Petek said.