Betty Yee knows the 30 years of experience in finance, budgets and policies and educational background have prepared her for the Controller’s Office.( Photo By Brian W. Carter)
The California State Board of Equalization member is ready to optimize California Funds.
Yee recounted the hard work of her father and how he strived for the American dream for his family. No doubt that same spirit is alive and well as she makes her bid for state controller to continue making California a golden state.
“Dirt poor growing up, we lived in a one bedroom apartment behind the laundry,” said Yee,” but never knew we were poor because we were rich in values.
“That’s part of why I think we’re a little bit off-kilter right now because society has lost some of those values about service, about community.”
She grew up in San Francisco, attending K-12 public schools and eventually earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979. Yee would receive her Master’s in Public Administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco in 1981.
“He opened up his laundry not in San Francisco, Chinatown but out in the west side of San Francisco in an Irish neighborhood,” said Yee. “We were really well supported because everybody just had this whole concept of community where if anybody was suffering in the community—the whole community suffered.”
Yee is no stranger to working in and for the community as she has 30 years of public service experience under her belt. She began working for the county public health commissioner and worked in the non-profit sector. She has held senior staff positions in multiple fiscal and policy committees in both houses of the California State Legislature. Yee also served as chief deputy director for budget with the California Department of Finance, where she developed the Governor’s Budget, negotiations with Legislature and key budget stakeholders and fiscal analysis of legislation for the Administration.
“When I was 13-years old, I represented the Chinese –American families in my neighborhood, who didn’t speak English, before the local school board,” said Yee. “They were going to start a busing program, which we didn’t oppose but none of the parents drove
“So it would take them well over two hours, on top of transportation to get to their children if anything should happen to them if an emergency arose. My statement to the school board council was could you use the dollars for the busing program to improve the quality of all the schools.
“Even though we didn’t get our way, it was a lesson to me that you’ve got to speak up—got to speak up, got to be a voice.”
Yee would be elected to the Office of the Board of Equalization in November 2006, receiving 65 percent of the votes cast. She was re-elected in 2010 receiving 63 percent of the vote. On the board of equalization, Yee serves about 9 million Californians in the First Equalization District, which is made up of 21 counties in northern and central California coast including the entire San Francisco Bay Area. During her tenure, she has served as chairwoman of the Board twice and was elected unanimously by her peers to the position, which had her serving on the California Franchise Tax Board.
Yee understands the importance of having diversity in public offices and how it affects multiple communities. She recognized this early on in her career and decided then that it was something that had to change.
“The first person I ever served with in Sacramento is now retired Congresswoman Diane Watson,” said Yee. “She allowed me to learn the state budget process but what astounded me, this was back in the mid ‘80s, was that anybody who was a financial fiscal advisor or our legislators—no women and no staff of color and I said, ‘This is wrong.’
“How do we bring a diverse perspective to the table to really advise policymakers about the direction of our resources?”
She obviously answered her own question by doing her job effectively. As she now sits on the Board of Equalization, Yee has not only served as a beacon of pride to all ethnicities and women alike that the job can be done by anyone with vision and drive. Now, Yee has set her sights on the office of controller, where she feels she can make even more of an impact.
As controller, her duties would include:
-fiscal control over the receipt and disbursement of public funds
-monitor financial operations and condition of state and local governments
-ensure fair, equitable and effective tax administration for the collection of monies due to the State
-establish policies for 80 boards, commissions, and committees
-administer the Unclaimed Property Program, returning unclaimed property received from banks, insurance companies, and other business firms to property owners
“I think my 30 years of experience in finance and my educational background well-prepared me for the job,” said Yee.
“I have a broader depth in terms of finance experience—not only with state budgets. When I was working in the legislature for Governor Davis, I over saw the analysis of bills and every policy area that had any kind of financial impact.”
Yee understands duty, responsibility and service—her track record speaks for itself. She learned at a very early age that values and community service are at the heart of any political office. Yee intends to bring the qualities that made her a steadfast government official to the Controller’s office.
“My idea of service is to be sure those opportunities are open for anyone who wants to pursue them,” said Yee. “When I look at how fewer these opportunities are now…how do you crack open all these opportunities?
“It’s about creating jobs, accessing a college or university of your choice—making it affordable.”