One of the most important elected positions in state government is the office of the state controller. The state controller is responsible for managing taxpayer dollars collected by the state. The controller’s office oversees the accuracy of the state payroll, performs audits of all state programs and offices as needed, and manages the state’s income in many other ways. The controller is, ideally, the taxpayer’s watchdog. This person is basically the accountant for the people.
I endorse the incumbent, John Chiang, for state controller.
Chiang has an impressive record so far and has accomplished a great deal on the taxpayers’ behalf.
In less than three years, Chiang has the highest number of audit findings in California history.
Under Chiang’s leadership, his office has managed to sift through more than $3 billion in state accounts to check them for accuracy and missed opportunities to save money. Chiang is the first state controller to have processed such a large portion of taxpayer funds. In less than four short years, he has uncovered more than $2.4 billion in waste, inefficiency and fraud in the state budget.
Shortly after Chiang was elected to his current job in 2007, he oversaw the addition of an Unclaimed Property section to the state’s website.
Unclaimed property is cash and other valuables owned by Californians but given to the state to hold when the owners cannot be located. It comes from many sources, such as forgotten bank accounts, final paychecks from jobs, unclaimed tax refunds, and property left to heirs.
Antiquated laws prevented the controller from notifying Californians that their property was going to be sent to the state on their behalf. Chiang got these laws changed, so citizens are now notified they have property to claim before their goods get sent to the state.
Chiang’s office also added a convenient, searchable online claim service to the state website. Visitors type in their names and the site tells them immediately if it is holding any of their cash or property.
Chiang is not afraid to stand up to the governor or state legislature when it comes to protecting tax dollars.
When Gov. Schwarzenegger tried twice to reduce the pay of state workers to minimum wage in an attempt to force the legislation to create a new state budget more quickly, Chiang refused. He proved to the satisfaction of the courts that it was illegal and the ancient state payroll system couldn’t handle the calculations of those cutbacks. The governor relented.
In the wake of the Wall Street meltdown and the housing crisis, Chiang has added financial education pages to his office’s website.
In the past three years, more Californians have lost their homes to foreclosure or unemployment than at any other time since the 1930s. To help citizens cope with this crisis, Chiang has taken advantage of technology that can communicate with citizens 365 days a year by creating the “Your Finances, Your Future” website. His office also hosts free financial education events throughout the state.
Chiang’s Republican opponent is State Sen. Tony Strickland. His ballot statement blames Chiang for the state employees’ pension crisis and the state budget crisis, but these problems were formed long before Chiang took office. The state controller has no power whatsoever to set salaries or pensions of union workers, that is the job of the legislators.
Strickland claims he will fight against unions if he becomes controller, but that’s not even within the scope of the controller’s powers.
Chiang has worked hard to open up all the closets of the state budget and let the skeletons fall out. He has brought modern technology to the people to help them in the worst financial crisis of modern times.
Re-elect Chiang so he can continue to confront legislators and hold them accountable.