The controller is California's chief fiscal officer with responsibility for overseeing and evaluating the state’s finances. The controller pays the state’s bills, issuing checks to vendors, state employees and retirees, local governments and others. The controller has the power to audit state agencies and federal programs in California, and also sits on 70 state boards and commissions. The current controller, Democrat Betty Yee, is termed out and unable to run again.
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California State Board of Equalization Member
Chen wants to:
- Use audit authority to aggressively examine state programs for mismanagement, fraud and abuse.
- Promote transparency to show how the state spends taxpayer money, including billions in federal pandemic assistance.
- Examine and reveal how tens of billions of dollars in federal assistance during the pandemic were spent and how school districts used funds for getting students back into the classroom safely.
Cohen wants to:
- Use audit power to hold corporations accountable for their promises and ensure that tax breaks and bond money are helping to create jobs in California.
- Promote fairness and pay-equity by focusing on job creation and job training, especially in communities of color and low-income communities.
- Make sure tax credits and bond money are used to efficiently build affordable housing.
Positions on Key IssuesCandidate summaries are based on interviews with the candidates, statements made at debates and public events and past news coverage.Candidate summaries are based on interviews with the candidates, statements made at debates and public events and past news coverage.
What do you see as the best use of the controller’s audit authority?
Chen wants more frequent and rigorous “systemic audits.” He sees audits as key to promoting transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility, and promises a “non-ideological” approach to audits and fiscal responsibility. His key audit targets are K-12 spending and homeless programs, along with the Employment Development Department and the High-Speed Rail Authority.
Cohen will use audits to promote fairness and “redistribute resources” in the name of equity for underserved communities where necessary. She supports performance audits to make sure programs aimed at issues such as homelessness and affordable housing are being used efficiently.
How will you be independent from the policymakers in the governor’s office and the state Legislature?
Chen says being a Republican will allow him to be unbeholden to the most powerful interest groups in Sacramento and help hold state government, including the Democrats “who run everything,” accountable. He says he doubts Cohen will be able or willing to challenge or scrutinize her Democratic allies.
Cohen says working in Sacramento is “a team sport” that requires the controller to be an ally for change rather than being in “gotcha” mode with state government. She says being a Democrat means she’ll be more able to have a “friendly, professional relationship” with the governor and the Legislature than would her Republican opponent.
As a board member of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), how will you deal with the state’s unfunded pension liability?
Chen says obligations made to retirees must be met. He supports the use of surplus state budget funds to help meet financial obligations to CalPERS and CalSTRS. He argues the underfunding of pension funds has been understated and he promises to provide “an honest look at the extent of the liabilities.”
Cohen says the current model for funding pensions is not stable or sustainable. She wants to “widen the base” of revenue to fund pension funds, but does not commit to additional revenue or to asking employees to contribute more.
Should CalPERS and CalSTRS use pension funds to promote policy and values through divestment?
Chen says pension funds should prioritize maximum returns. He says he would be “very careful” about divestment and would examine “severity of the offense, national security justifications and practical questions” before divesting funds.
Cohen supports a cautious, go-slow approach on divestment. She says she would examine other ways short of divestment to encourage corporate or national change in support of policies and values that California supports.
Key SupportersThis list represents notable organizations and officials who have taken a position on the ballot measure, or who are funding the campaigns in support or in opposition. This list is not exhaustive, and may be updated.This list represents notable organizations and officials who have taken a position on the ballot measure, or who are funding the campaigns in support or in opposition. This list is not exhaustive, and may be updated.
FundraisingCampaign finance data comes from the California Secretary of State’s office and our partners at Voter’s Edge.Campaign finance data comes from the California Secretary of State’s office and our partners at Voter’s Edge.
Source: California Secretary of State