No. 4: Capitol Weekly’s Top 100

Illustration by Chris Shary

4. Michael Cohen

This is another of those welcome-back moments, and this time it’s for Michael Cohen, the director of the Department of Finance. That’s the office that writes the governor’s budget and decides how much government departments will get to spend. So within Sacramento’s vast bureaucratic structure, this department stands atop all others. The 2018-19 budget signed by Jerry Brown in June totaled just north of $201 billion. The man in charge of it all as director of the Department of Finance since 2013 is Cohen, a graduate of the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The balding, bespectacled Cohen, who has been on our list before, was gone last year due to illness. He has a unique ability to master details while also being plugged into the big picture. By virtue of his position, Cohen is Gov. Brown’s principal adviser on all matters fiscal, and while the state’s current outlook is rosy, Cohen and his department display prudence in viewing the future. In addition to the census, Cohen’s team is taking a front-row position on the U.S. Census in California, making sure that the state doesn’t suffer from an undercount.

Updated Aug. 15, 2o18

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