Let’s be honest, is anyone really excited about our choices for State office on the ballot this year? Most of my friends have no clue who they should vote for and really no interest in learning more about the candidates. Which is a shame, especially in the case of the State Controller’s race. Now I know you really have to be deep in the weeds of fiscal policy to care about who wins that seat, but let me assure you, it is more important then you might think. Add in the prediction of a historic low for voter turn out, and this is one race that those of us who care about the financial well being of the State of California hope to win.
The Controller is the State’s Chief Financial Officer and should be the Taxpayer’s Watchdog. We need a voice that is independent of the majority currently in power in Sacramento. The Controller has the authority to audit every state agency and department. Having a Sacramento insider in that position is not a comfortable thought.
Depending on who wins, the State Controller could be the swing vote on the 5-member Board of Equalization and the controlling vote on the 3-member Franchise Tax Board. Both of these positions can make a difference in how we implement tax and regulatory policies in the State of California, if we elect the right person. For the tenth year in a row national CEOs have ranked California as the Worst State in which to do Business. That’s right, for ten years in a row we are at the bottom. We have to make a change, and soon.
Pension obligations and unfunded liabilities are front-page news almost every week. The State Controller is a voting Board Member for both the CalPERS and the CalSTRS pension systems, the Controller is supposed to be the taxpayer’s representative. Let’s find one that is actually going to represent the taxpayers. So why are unions spending so heavily to make sure Betty Yee is elected as State Controller? A recent quote in the LA Times might just explain the reason, "You want to make sure you can do everything possible to shore up candidates who will help workers," said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation when asked about their spending for Yee. Wow, at the very least you have to appreciate his honesty.
The State Controller has a seat on 81 Boards and Commissions that have a tremendous influence on our economic environment and impact taxpayers every day. From the Commission on State Mandates to the State Lands Commission to Finance and Bond Committees that work with Veterans, Water Conservation, State Parks, Safe Drinking Water, Prison Construction, Transportation, Technology, Voter Modernization, Victims Compensation, Education, Alternative Energy, the list goes on and on.
We need to shake up the bureaucracy in Sacramento, and the State Controller’s race is the perfect place to start. The Orange County Register was spot on with their recent endorsement of Mayor Ashley Swearengin for State Controller. Mayor Swearengin will focus on economic competitiveness, budget and debt, and spending and oversight when she is elected and will bring forward an annual competitiveness audit including threats and opportunities facing our state’s economy, as well as risks posed by individual state laws, regulations and policies. Imagine if our State Legislature were to be held accountable for how the laws they passed actually affected our business climate and the wallets of individual taxpayers. Maybe next year another state will have the dubious honor of ranking at the bottom.
By Carolyn Cavecche, President & CEO of Orange County Taxpayers Association