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Last month we suggested that California’s Board of Equalization deserved a stop on the California Corruptour, modeled on the one now functioning in Mexico. The BOE, which does not equalize anything, has misallocated nearly $50 million in tax revenue. BOE members have been spending public funds to promote themselves, staging useless events, and dishing out raises to high-salaried staff without performance reviews. On top of that, the shabbily constructed BOE headquarters in Sacramento continues to be a safety threat and a bottomless money pit. Now the BOE’s longest standing member is sounding the alarm.
Betty Yee, who is also the state Controller, told reporters, “I look at the board and it’s entrusted with making sure our tax dollars get to the right place, and clearly it’s falling short in this critical mission.” Yee cited an audit showing that the BOE tried 11 times to correct its accounting but still could not explain how it moved revenue among different state funds. Yee wants to restrict the board to its original mission of managing property taxes. She would cut its oversight of sales and use taxes and move 80 percent of the staff to a different revenue department.
Similar concerns prompted BOE member Fiona Ma to write Jerry Brown, asking the governor to appoint a public trustee to manage the board. As we noted, Brown’s default response to serious problems is “I mean, look, shit happens,” and he maintains his ironclad commitment to ever-expanding government and constantly rising taxes. So asking Brown to fix the BOE is like a drowning person demanding an anvil.
Like the Coastal Commission and CIRM, the state stem cell agency, California does not need a state Board of Equalization. As veteran Sacramento observer Dan Walters explains, “real reform would be to abolish the board entirely” and fold it into a single Department of Revenue. Anything short of that and the institutionalized waste will continue.