9. Joe Stephenshaw
The most powerful single office in California government is the Finance Department, which is largely unknown to the public but which holds sway over the budgets of state agencies. The department director is Joe Stephenshaw, and that’s about all you need to know. Each year his team writes the governor’s budget, then rewrites it in the spring to account for the most recent tax receipts. The latest spending plan, a $310.8 billion behemoth reflecting compromises by the governor and lawmakers, got through surprisingly quickly, despite warnings of delayed tax collections and a looming $30 billion shortfall. But the budget is part money and part politics, and Stephenshaw is versed in both. He served a decade staffing the Legislature, including roles as budget consultants to Assembly and Senate leaders, and as staff director for the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. Before he went to the Legislature, he was a budget analyst for the Finance Department. Before Newsom named him Finance Department director in July 2022, he was the governor’s senior advisor on infrastructure and fiscal affairs.
Updated Aug. 15, 2023