Member, California State Board of Equalization
and 2014 Candidate for State Controller
California’s Own: A native of San Francisco and a proud product of its K-12 public schools, Betty Yee was born to immigrant parents who established a laundry and dry cleaning business in the Parkside District of San Francisco and operated it for 30 years. The second oldest of six children, Betty grew up speaking no English at home. As with her siblings, when not in school, she worked the counter of her parents’ business, interacting with customers and often translating for her parents with vendors as well as assisting in financial transactions for them.
Ms. Yee’s work ethic was modeled after that of her parents, who never closed the business other than on Sundays and holidays and never took vacations. She especially is proud of the reputation her father earned for the quality of his work in hand-finishing men’s shirts and that of her mother for her excellent skills as a seamstress. The hard work and sacrifice of her parents inspired Ms. Yee and her siblings to do well in school. All six children are college graduates: five from the University of California, Berkeley, and one from San Francisco State University; three have advanced degrees.
About the California State Board of Equalization: Currently, Ms. Yee serves as one of five members on the California State Board of Equalization, the nation’s only elected tax commission. She represents close to 9 million Californians in the First Equalization District, comprised of 21 counties primarily along the northern and central California coast and including the entire San Francisco Bay Area — the home to many of the state’s most prominent industries, such as biotechnology, health care, high tech, financial services, wine, and tourism. Ms. Yee was elected to this office first in November 2006, receiving over 1.5 million votes, or 65 percent of the votes cast. She was re-elected in 2010, earning over 1.6 million votes, or 63 percent of the votes cast.
The Board hears business tax appeals, acts as the appellate body for franchise and income tax appeals, and serves significant roles in the assessment and administration of property taxes. During her tenure, Ms. Yee has served as the Chairwoman of the Board twice, elected unanimously by her peers to this position that has included her serving as a member of the California Franchise Tax Board.
Experience and Qualified: Prior to her service on the Board of Equalization, Ms. Yee served as the Chief Deputy Director for Budget with the California Department of Finance, where she led the development of the Governor’s Budget, negotiations with the Legislature and key budget stakeholders, and fiscal analysis of legislation on behalf of the Administration. Earlier, Ms. Yee held senior staff positions on several fiscal and policy committees in both houses of the California State Legislature. Her legislative career began when she served as a Senate Fellow with the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Preceding her legislative experience, Ms. Yee served as a county public health commissioner and worked in the nonprofit sector.
With 30 years of public service experience specializing in state and local finance, Ms. Yee has been recognized widely for her work. She received the Distinguished Service Award from the California State Association of Counties and an Award of Recognition from the California Assessors Association for her leadership in establishing the State-County Property Tax Administration Program. Additionally, she has represented California as an advocate and resource on multistate tax issues before the United States Congress.
Accomplishments: A recognized and well-respected expert in tax and fiscal policy, Ms. Yee is widely known for her record of fairness, unblemished integrity, resolving complex policy issues, and program development and implementation. Her leadership on the Board of Equalization has focused on closing the tax gap and on increasing the transparency of the Board’s work and proceedings. In closing the tax gap, Ms. Yee has initiated proposals to crack down on the underground economy where tax cheats who do not comply with tax requirements place a disproportionate burden on honest, hardworking taxpayers. To increase the transparency of the Board, Ms. Yee initiated audio- and video-streaming of the Board’s public proceedings and increased timely and responsive taxpayer and constituent services.
Some of Ms. Yee’s other major accomplishments during her tenure on the Board include:
- Enacting state tax equity for same-sex couples.
- Ensuring online retailers play by the same tax rules as Main Street retailers.
- Expanding open space preservation with tax relief for conservation easement grants.
- Updating state tax rules to promote the green economy and its new technologies and products.
- Facilitating tax compliance by offering free resources to the small business, nonprofit, non-English speaking, and women’s communities.
Community Service: Ms. Yee continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to mentoring and supporting women, youth, and those from our diverse communities of color who are seeking to enter or are pursuing opportunities in public service or elected or appointed office. She currently serves on the board of directors of California Women Lead, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing leadership training, networking opportunities, and policy discussion forums for women serving in or seeking elected or appointed office. Ms. Yee also has participated in numerous leadership trainings and conferences that focus on preparing aspiring political leaders to run for office, such as those sponsored by EMILY’s List, the National Women’s Political Caucus-California, Emerge California, the Asian Pacific American Leadership Project, and the Women’s Caucus of the California Democratic Party.
Presently, Ms. Yee serves on the board of directors of the Cal Alumni Association at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Sociology. On the Alumni Association board, Ms. Yee is a leader in scholarship development activities to ensure financial hardship may be overcome so the Cal campus may reflect a diverse student body to enhance learning and deepen understanding of differing perspectives. Ms. Yee also is proud to have been the recipient of the Community Service Award from the Alumni Association of Golden Gate University, where she earned her master’s degree in Public Administration.
A lifelong advocate for civil rights, Ms. Yee responded to the invitation to serve on the Equality California Institute board of directors. Equality California promotes equality, fairness, and justice through proactive engagement about issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and ally communities.
As California’s Next Controller: With demonstrated leadership in serving as a responsible steward of our tax dollars, Ms. Yee will bring her fair yet tough-minded discipline to the office of Controller, California’s independent fiscal watchdog. She will work hard to restore and maintain California’s fiscal health so that the doors of opportunity in the Golden State may stay open for all.