The State Board of Equalization voted December 14 to elect Member Malia Cohen as the new BOE chair effective January 1, and to retain Vice Chair Michael Schaefer in the role he has held for the past two years. As chair of the BOE, Cohen also will serve as one of the three members of the Franchise Tax Board.
Cohen previously served as chair in 2019. She succeeds Antonio Vazquez, who has served as chair for the past two years.
Cohen, a San Francisco resident who represents the BOE’s District 2, is a Democratic candidate for controller in next year’s election.
“It is a privilege and honor to serve again as Chair of the California State Board of Equalization,” Cohen said in a written statement released after the meeting. “In these unprecedented times, with the daily challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember that our first duty is to the People of California who deserve our continuing dedication, resolve, and service. The BOE is a critical institution that guarantees direct representation on property tax issues. California’s Property Tax system, which is administered by the BOE, provides over $75 billion in annual revenue for our schools and local government.”
Schaefer made the motion to nominate Cohen, and Deputy State Controller Yvette Stowers (representing Controller Betty Yee) seconded the motion. BOE Member Ted Gaines nominated Vazquez to continue chairing the board. The vote to elect Cohen was 3-2, with Cohen joining Schaefer and Stowers to approve the motion.
For the vice chair position, Cohen nominated Schaefer and Stowers seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.
After the 2018 election that resulted in all four BOE districts having new representatives, the members initially supported a process of rotating the chair beginning with District 2 and proceeding numerically each year, so each district-elected member would serve for one year of the four-year term. That process was replaced after the first year, however, and the board ultimately decided to hold an election at the end of every year to choose the chair for the year ahead. The process also requires the matter to be placed on the agenda – an effort to make it impossible for the chair to remain in power simply by refusing to schedule a vote (a strategy that was employed successfully by some BOE chairs prior to 2018).
All of the members praised Vazquez for his leadership.
Vazquez said 2021 was “a challenging year,” but added that the board was able to do “a lot of important work” including a significant amount of work to implement Proposition 19.