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Betty Yee

State Controller, California

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Betty Yee has helped shape public policy in California for more than three decades. Her introduction to public finance came while she was serving as a county public health commissioner during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Local governments lacked resources to fight the disease, so she led efforts to secure additional funding. “Finance may have to do with money and dollars, but there’s a human face behind every decision and people’s lives are affected,” she says.

Yee went on to serve in multiple positions in both houses of the California Legislature. When she first arrived in Sacramento, she saw a stark disparity in how few women worked on fiscal policy issues. She has since mentored other women and has held leadership roles with California Women Lead, a group that works to boost representation of women in government. “The conversations really are different when women are at the table,” she says. 

Now in her third year as the state’s chief fiscal officer, she’s embarked on her biggest challenge yet: comprehensive tax reform. The state’s tax structure, she says, is unsustainable. It’s a topic that elected officials have been reluctant to take on and will likely take years to resolve. But Yee doesn’t plan on backing down.

Read about the Women in Government program and the rest of the honorees.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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