Endorsement: Lanhee Chen for controller because California needs an independent fiscal watchdog

California voters have two formidable candidates to choose from in the race for state controller, an obscure but important post that cuts the controls that keep the government running and has the power to scrutinize state finances.

The selection should boil down to this: do you want the position to be filled by someone who will work closely with the officials who run state government? Or would you rather see it manned by someone with the independence and skills to investigate why government spending hasn’t produced better results?

We believe the latter is a better choice, which is why We supported Lanhee Chen in the June primary and why we are pushing for a vote for him on the November 8 vote.

Chen teaches public policy as a Hoover Institution fellow at Stanford University and has worked in government, politics, academia, and business. He has experience analyzing complex financial systems in his current role at Board of a nonprofit health care system in the Bay Area and in his previous capacity as a member of the Social Security Advisory Board, to which he served nominated by President Obama. Before that he was policy director Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Chen is a moderate Republican who does not deal in conspiracies. He states unequivocally that the 2020 presidential election was legitimate – and that Donald Trump did not truthfully say otherwise. Before the primaries, Chen declined to say who he voted for in the last two presidential elections. Since then he has said that he didn’t vote for Trump (he wrote on Romney’s behalf in 2016 and left his 2020 ballot blank) and will not support him if he runs again.

On the subject of abortion, Chen describes himself as a supporter of the election and said he was not involved in shaping Romney’s anti-abortion stance in 2012 (Romney’s position at postponed abortion about his political career). Chen said he would not use the Controller’s office to advance a partisan agenda on abortion or any other issue. This would be difficult anyway, since the controller has no power to change the law or decide how the state spends money. That is determined by the governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Chen focuses on the controller’s power to scrutinize government spending. He promises to review the top spending categories and rank programs for effectiveness. This is a much-needed service in a state that is underperforming despite its soaring $300 billion budget. During the last several years of strong earnings, California pumped billions more into education, healthcare and homelessness relief. But too few students can read at grade leveltoo many Medi-Cal patients can’t see a doctor and too many people sleep on the street.

Californians deserve more clarity on why the state hasn’t had better results with its recent windfalls. A focused and independent controller can help lead the way toward changes that make spending more effective in addressing the state’s pressing problems.

The controller sits on dozens of committees and commissions, by helping to oversee state pension funds and funding agencies that issue bonds to build schools, hospitals, and transportation projects. Chen would bring a more fiscally conservative perspective to these boards, although his ability to dramatically change their direction is in doubt since the Controller is just a voice on a larger board.

Chen’s opponent, Democrat Malia Cohen, has a track record in civil service on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the State Board of Equalization, which oversees property tax collection. As San Francisco supervisor, Cohen worked to divest the city’s pension fund of fossil fuels and establish a department to investigate police shootings. She has strong ties to the state’s power structure, having received Major campaign finance by influential public sector unions and by the California Democratic Party, most state officials and dozens of legislators.

Cohen is able to work well with the Democrats who run the state. But we believe California needs a controller that has more independence. That’s why Chen is the better choice in this race.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-09-20/lanhee-chen-california-controller-endorsement Endorsement: Lanhee Chen for controller because California needs an independent fiscal watchdog

Alley Einstein

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