5. Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen is the director of the Department of Finance, which means he heads the unit that writes the governor’s budgets. In the state bureaucratic pecking order, Finance is at the top of the heap, because it is the agency that decides what the other agencies get. And we’re talking about a lot of dough: The 2016-17 state budget totals nearly $171 billion, much higher than the trifling $149 billion of runner-up New York (we’re talking state money only). Cohen is an LAO alum, leaving in 2010 for Finance, where he became the director in mid-2013. He is a master of detail, the go-to man for Jerry Brown on arcane budget questions at budget briefings, but of necessity he is also a master of The Big Picture. Cohen and the department’s press guy, H.D. Palmer, are the go-to’s if you want to understand the administration’s take on money. Finance also keeps track of the state’s current financial health, forecasts its future, tracks population growth and makes education enrollment projections.
Updated Aug. 9, 2o16