Former Controller Betty Yee is unqualified to be governor of California

It’s hard to think of a worse candidate for governor than former Controller Betty Yee. Yet the Democrat announced her candidacy for the 2026 contest last week, saying, “We have the power to make California add up for all of us again.”

One thing that didn’t add up was the main task of her job as controller: filing the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) for the state government on time. Unlike a budget, which is a projection, a comprehensive financial report is a precise accounting of a government body’s finances. It’s crucial especially today as Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature grapple with a deficit as high as $73 billion as they write the budget for fiscal year 2024-25, which begins on July 1. 

Yee left office on January 2, 2023 with the ACFRs for 2020-21 and 2021-22 late and unfinished. On March 23, 2023 her successor, Malia Cohen, released the 2021-21 document. In her introductory letter, she blamed the tardiness on “transitioning to the Financial Information System of California (FI$CAL).” 

But the next ACFR, for 2021-22, finally was released on March 15, 2024 – last month. Cohen lamented it was “the fifth consecutive year” the document came out late. The report uncovered an unexpected $47 billion increase in the state’s unrestricted net deficit, a key number, despite the state’s general prosperity. If that had been known for last year’s budget negotiations, cuts could have been made to reduce the enormity of this year’s deficit. Even other fiscally challenged states such as New York and Illinois get their ACFRs finished on time. 

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California needed a disciplined fiscal watchdog throughout Yee’s time as controller, especially during the pandemic period. Instead, during the pandemic, Yee made headlines for advising a politically-connected company how to get a $600 million no-bid contract from the state. Yee even advised one of the political consultants who stood to gain from the deal “to refrain from disclosing that Blue Flame would earn $134 million in profits on the contract, because the information could ‘become a matter of public record and make headlines.’”

Yee also repeatedly rebuffed efforts by to open the state’s books to public scrutiny. While every other state made line-by-line expenditures available for public review, Yee fought efforts to open the books for years. Ultimately, constructed a state “checkbook” itself using public records requests.

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“Today, we can say California’s State Checkbook is posted online for anyone to review,” wrote Adam Andrzejewski, who founded the website, in these pages in September 2022. “In just four months, we accomplished what Governor Newsom, Controller Yee, attorneys general, bureaucrats and lawmakers had all refused to do.”

Contrast this record with the way she pitches herself to voters on her campaign website: “Accountable. Competent. Genuine. Caring. A truth-teller. A problem-solver. Former State Controller Betty Yee is a leader uniquely prepared to meet this challenging moment in California. “

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This state suffers massive financial problems that only have festered under Newsom: structural budget deficits, overspending, the highest taxes in the country, big pension costs, and a worsening homelessness crisis despite remarkable amounts of spending. 

The state needs a chief executive who at least can file fiscal documents on time. Betty Yee has proven she can’t even do that.

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