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California maintains a state Board of Equalization that, contrary to its name, does not equalize anything. Board of Taxation would more accurate because the state body collects taxes, and as Adam Ashton notes in the Sacramento Bee, board members use some of the tax money they collect to promote themselves in their districts. In the next six months, the four elected BOE members will spend $800,000 on “so-called education and outreach programs.” Previously there was no limit on how much they could spend on such programs “developed using taxpayer funds” and last year the BOE spent $1.6 million taxpayer dollars in that manner. Last year, state Controller Betty Yee said she had done it, even though “I think it’s not appropriate.” It isn’t and by Ashton’s count, six audits, including one from the state Department of Finance, are “investigating whether elected members enhance their direct staffs by tapping nonpolitical public employees for pet projects.”
Ashton has also observed that the BOE has been dishing out raises as high as 10 percent to high-level management without performance reviews. Cynthia Bridges, BOE Executive Director, handed out the raises. Bridges was ousted last March but “subsequently hired to join the BOE staff of board member Jerome Horton.” What a cozy world, but this hardly exhausts BOE problems.
As we noted, the BOE’s Sacramento headquarters is known as a “24-story money pit,” with a history of leaks, mold, burst pipes, falling glass, a bat infestation and traces of toxic substances. Over two decades bureaucratic bosses spent some $60 million on repairs. That would not have been necessary if the building had been properly constructed. It wasn’t, because politicians were looking the other way, and they allowed the statute of limitations on defective construction to run out in 2002. As the money pit grows deeper and wider, BOE members are still able to spend public funds to promote themselves and waste taxpayer dollars on unmerited raises for already overpaid BOE bosses.