Fall 2023 Fellow
Betty Yee was elected as California’s Controller in November 2014, following two terms of service on the California Board of Equalization, the nation’s only elected tax commission. Reelected for a second term as Controller in 2018 and earning the highest number of votes of any candidate on the ballot that year nationwide — over 8 million votes — Betty is only the tenth woman in California history to be elected to statewide office.
As chief fiscal officer of then the world’s fifth-largest economy, Betty chaired the Franchise Tax Board and served as a member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Boards. These two boards of the nation’s largest public pension funds reached a combined portfolio of more than $800 billion.
As chair of the State Lands Commission, she provided stewardship of public-trust lands, waterways, and marine resources through economic development, protection, preservation, and restoration consistent with the state’s environmental needs. In this capacity, Betty led the adoption of the Commission’s first-ever strategic plan, focusing on addressing sea-level rise and oil decommissioning, with a commitment to environmental justice and tribal consultation. She also spearheaded the shuttering of the last state oil platform in the Santa Barbara Channel.
A native of San Francisco, Betty has more than 35 years of experience in public service, specializing in state and local finance and tax policy. As Controller, Betty led an experienced, full-time team of public service professionals who are responsible for financial reporting, audits, and issuing more than 49 million payments annually to vendors, local governments, school districts, taxpayers, and state employees. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Betty worked to streamline the State Controller’s Office manual processes and reimagine the agency as a workplace of the future.
Betty currently serves on the Board of Directors of: Ceres; Golden Gate University; the College Futures Foundation; and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. She also volunteers for the California Democratic Party, serving as its Vice Chair.
Study Group: Good Governance: The Antidote to California’s Challenges
The late Congressman John Lewis often spoke fondly of Rosa Parks as his inspiration “…to find a way, to get in the way, to get in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.” Just as Rosa Parks and John Lewis experienced so much around them that was not right, fair, or just, we live in troubled times today. With threats against our democracy, hyper-partisanship, growing economic and racial inequality, the already devastating effects of climate change, and more problems that have been addressed with ineffective political and policy solutions, getting into good governance offers hope for meeting our challenges while also sustaining and strengthening our democracy. This study group explored the elements of good governance and how they may be restored to meet this moment and beyond.
Fall 2023 Semester Recap
Betty Yee said this about her experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future: “I was pleased to see how eager the students were to engage in discussions about the relationship between good governance and the health of our democracy. Their interactions with non-elected governance practitioners yielded insights into how governance occurs in numerous venues as well as how the characteristics of good governance may be enhanced to broaden civic participation. My favorite part about being a CPF Fellow was witnessing the students challenging one another and respectfully disagreeing. This aspect contributed to robust discussions and full participation. What an uplifting experience!”
USC students in Betty’s study group shared this about their experience:
“I learned a lot about how California politics is looked at from the perspective of the policymakers themselves, as well as the barriers to change that exist. I noticed a lot of things were brought up as big issues that the media don’t really cover, ever! For example, Betty mentioned how term limits for state senators have made most policies extremely short-term, and as a result the state is less effective in long-term issues, instead only planning in individual increments of 4 to 5 years. This and other issues affecting state politics from within the bureaucracy are really interesting to hear about.”
River Muench, Political Science
“Betty Yee’s study group only furthered my passions in government and public service and I’m so excited to utilize what I’ve learned through the rest of my time at USC and beyond. Each of the guest speakers shone through in each of their respective fields and opened my eyes to a world full of possibilities for effective governance. This has been an unparalleled experience and I truly loved listening to what she and my fellow peers had to say every Wednesday.”
Allie Wang, Law, History, and Culture
“I was deeply inspired by Betty’s story and her legacy to bring positive change to California. Her openness to share stories and insights has brought great hope in my future involvement with public service. I am glad to have the opportunity to be taught by her and hope to be in more fellow groups soon.”
Victor Ye, Communication
“I learned what exactly good governance is and the nuance behind what it takes to engage in good governance, from the individual level to the heavily fragmented state government. I really enjoyed being able to talk to Betty in a small group as we were all able to give our input and engage in discussion.”
Betty Yee shared her thoughts on the importance of politics, her first political experience, her advice for having respectful political discourse, and what she appreciates about CPF in her “Quick Takes: Q&A with CPF Fellow Betty Yee” video.