Why the State Controllerís office is important

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Oct. 26, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The California State Controller is probably one of the most important government positions for taxpayers, with broader responsibilities and authority than the California State Treasurer. The current race for State Controller between former Assemblymember Tony Strickland (R) and Board of Equalization member John Chiang (D) is proving to have all the signs of a hotly contested race with Independent Expenditure committees playing an increasingly large role with less than two weeks left in the race.

The importance of the position can not be overstated as the State Controller is the Chief Financial Officer for California, empowered with the investigative authority for every dollar spent by the state and key membership roles on the State Board of Equalization, the Franchise Tax Board, and the State Lands Commission.

Board of Equalization (BOE):
The State Controller has the ability to be the fifth, and decisive, vote on the BOE, because the other BOE seats were drawn in the last redistricting effort as two safe Democrat seats and two safe Republican seats. This gives the State Controller tremendous power to impact state tax policy.  The BOE administers 18 tax programs (including state sales tax, gasoline tax, alcohol and tobacco taxes, timber yield tax, and a number of fees). The BOE also plays a critical role as an appellate body for taxpayer disputes for the taxes administered by both the BOE and the FTB (including personal income and bank and corporation tax).

Franchise Tax Board (FTB:
As one of three votes on the FTB, the State Controller (along with the Director of the Department of Finance and the Chairperson of the State BOE) has significant influence on the direction of tax policy under FTB authority and, consequently, on the general tone of the state's tax and business climate.

State Lands Commission (SLC):
The State Controller is also one of three votes on the State Lands Commission (SLC), along with the Lieutenant Governor and the Director of the Department of Finance. This body has regulatory control over four million acres of state lands and waterways, including oil, gas, timber, and mining lands, and is responsible for:

  •  Leasing land under its control for the extraction of oil, gas, geothermal, and mineral resources,
  •  Exercising economic control over oil and gas development of the tidelands granted to the City of Long Beach,
  •  Overseeing management of other state lands, including school lands, and,
  •  Administering regulations and policies for operation of marine facilities in the state to protect against oil spills.

Additionally, the State Controller wields great influence as a voting board member on both the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teacher's Retirement System.

As election day draws near, both major candidates for State Controller are emphasizing the very high stakes nature of the outcome of this election for all taxpayers. Political observers will continue to asses what, if any, coattails the Governor will have and how that may impact such "down ballot" races like the race for State Controller.

But one thing is clear – this tight Controller's race of two relatively unknown statewide candidates has drawn money from Indian gaming tribes who recently locked up major television ad buys for Strickland and from labor unions who did the same in support of Chiang. This race will be one to watch until the finish.

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