California State Controller

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State Controller of California
Seal of the California state controller
Flag of California
Malia Cohen
since January 2, 2023
StyleThe Honorable
Term lengthFour years, two term limit
Inaugural holderJohn S. Houston
FormationCalifornia Constitution

The state controller of California is a constitutional office in the executive branch of the government of the U.S. state of California. Thirty-three individuals have held the office of state controller since statehood. The incumbent is Malia Cohen, a Democrat.[1] The state controller's main office is located at 300 Capitol Mall in Sacramento.

Election and term of office[edit]

The state controller assumes office by way of election. The term of office is four years, renewable once. Elections for state controller are held on a four-year basis concurrently with elections for the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, insurance commissioner, and superintendent of public instruction.

Powers and duties[edit]

As California's chief fiscal officer, the state controller has broad superintending authority over the accounting and disbursement of state and local government finances.[2] As such, the state controller:

  • Acts as the state's accountant. This entails maintaining the statewide accounting system, issuing reports on the financial condition of the state, approving claims against the state, administering payroll for state employees, ordering deposits into the state treasury, and drawing checks and approving electronic fund transfers.
  • Administers California's unclaimed property laws. As such, the state controller audits holders of unclaimed property, safeguards unclaimed property reported to his or her office, and works to return unclaimed property back to its rightful owners.
  • Audits public funds spent by myriad state agencies. The state controller is the internal auditor of California state government, examining the internal controls of state agencies, the state lottery, and oil and gas lease royalties to assure operational effectiveness and efficiency, reliable financial reporting, and legal compliance. A separate state auditor serves as the external auditor for the whole of state government and reports exclusively to the state legislature on state agency financial management and performance.
  • Supervises local government finances. As part of this function, the state controller has broad discretion to audit state funds spent by local governments and prescribes uniform accounting, budgeting, and financial reporting systems applicable to nearly 5,000 counties, cities, towns, school districts, local housing authorities, rural development authorities, and all other political subdivisions of the state. Likewise, the state controller reviews the annual financial and single audits performed by external auditors on behalf of California's local governments for conformity with the law and government auditing standards. Separately, the state controller collects, apportions, and distributes property taxes and other state aids among the many counties, cities, towns, and school districts.

Aside from the office's functional responsibilities, the state controller serves on over 70 boards and commissions, including the California State Lands Commission, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, California Board of Equalization, California Franchise Tax Board, California Pollution Control Financing Authority, the California Debt Limit Allocation Commission, California Alternative Energy Source Financing Authority, the California Education Facilities Authority, and the California Victim Compensation Board, among others.[3]


The Office has a staff of Deputy State Controllers that help the State Controller fulfill her elected duties, including sitting on the Board of Equalization and other boards for the State Controller in absentia. Noted former Deputy State Controllers include Barrett McInerney, James Burton, and Laurette Healey.

List of California state controllers[edit]

300 Capitol Mall is home to several state agencies including the Controller's Office
Name Party Term
John S. Houston Democratic 1849–1852
Winslow S. Pierce Democratic 1852–1854
Samuel Bell Democratic 1854–1856
George W. Whitman American 1856–1857
Edward F. Burton American 1857
George W. Whitman American 1857–1858
Aaron R. Melony Lecompton Democrat 1858–1860
Samuel H. Brooks Lecompton Democrat 1860–1861
James S. Gillan Democratic 1861–1862
Gilbert R. Warren Republican 1862–1863
George R. Oulton Constitutional Union 1863–1867
Robert Watt Democratic 1867–1871
James J. Green Republican 1871–1875
James W. Mandeville Democratic 1875–1876
William B. C. Brown Democratic 1876–1877
Daniel M. Kenfield Republican 1877–1883
John P. Dunn Democratic 1883–1891
Edward P. Colgan Republican 1891–1906
A. B. Nye Republican 1906–1913
John S. Chambers Republican 1913–1920
Ray L. Riley Republican 1921–1937
Harry B. Riley Republican 1937–1946
Thomas Kuchel Republican 1946–1953
Robert C. Kirkwood Republican 1953–1959
Alan Cranston Democratic 1959–1967
Houston I. Flournoy Republican 1967–1975
Kenneth Cory Democratic 1975–1987
Gray Davis Democratic 1987–1995
Kathleen Connell Democratic 1995–2003
Steve Westly Democratic 2003–2007
John Chiang Democratic 2007–2015
Betty Yee Democratic 2015–2023
Malia Cohen Democratic 2023–present


  1. ^ "Controller Malia M. Cohen". California State Controller's Office. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  2. ^ "State Controller's Functions". California State Controller's Office. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  3. ^ "Boards and Commissions". California State Controller's Office. Retrieved October 1, 2021.

External links[edit]