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As we noted, California’s Board of Equalization has managed to misallocate 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. The shabbily constructed BOE headquarters in Sacramento remains a safety threat and bottomless money pit. Some BOE bosses have been calling for reform, and on June 12, state controller Betty Yee came out with a plan.
“Lawmakers move to blow up California tax board,” runs the Sacramento Bee headline, but that’s not quite right. The new plan “does not eliminate the Board of Equalization,” even though according to the state legislative analyst the BOE spends only $27 million out of its $670 million budget on programs required by the state constitution. So the BOE remains and under the new plan it will “shed almost 90 percent of its 4,800 employees.” Actually, it won’t because “the employees would keep their jobs, but most of them would move to a new revenue department that would report to the Governor’s Office.”
That would be the office of recurring governor Jerry Brown, a born-again tax hiker who has made California’s income and sales taxes the highest in the nation. More recently Brown has championed a $5.2 billion tax hike to fix the state’s disastrous roads. They are a disaster because transportation maintenance and infrastructure money has been used to subsidize general fund bond payments. Governor Brown also wants to spend nearly $70 billion on a bullet train and $15 billion to dig tunnels under the San Joaquin-Sacramento River delta.
Taxpayers should be clear what is going on here, a surge of fake reform. The new plan does not “blow up” the Board of Equalization, which does not equalize anything. On the other hand, the new plan further empowers a spendthrift governor whose tax hikes will punish workers statewide. Yee’s plan could get a vote this week and be in place by July 1.