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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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BOE Member George Runner

Response to Gas Tax Vote

Today the Board of Equalization voted 5-0 to reduce the state’s gasoline excise tax rate by 6 cents, from 36 cents to 30 cents, effective July 1 of this year.

This gas tax cut, although less than originally proposed, is still good news for overtaxed Californians, who currently pay both higher gas prices and higher taxes than residents of other states.

Today’s vote stems from a confusing and complicated formula known as the ‘gas tax swap.’ The Legislature enacted the formula a few years ago in order to redirect more than a billion dollars of transportation funding elsewhere. Under the gas tax swap law, the Board must annually adjust the gas tax rate to guard against over collection of tax.

State revenues from fuel taxes reached a record $8.7 billion last fiscal year. Today’s vote will help correct the over collection of tax that is resulting from lower gas prices.

But even after this tax cut takes effect July 1, Californians will continue to pay more gas taxes and fees than residents in nearly every other state. In fact, the Board’s cut won’t even fully offset the cost of a new ‘hidden gas tax’ that took effect January 1 to help fund… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

California Needs a Simpler Gas Tax, Not a Higher One

My latest op-ed as seen in The Sacramento Bee.

With prices at the pump heading back up, news of a possible cut to the state’s gas tax will surely cheer California drivers.

On Tuesday, the State Board of Equalization will consider a proposal to cut the state’s gas tax by 7.5 cents a gallon. The proposal stems from a complicated formula enacted by the Legislature in 2010.

While California drivers will surely welcome news of a possible cut, there are some who would rather see gas taxes go up. They think you should be sending more dollars, not fewer, to Sacramento.

But let’s be honest, government already has more than enough of your dollars. Californians pay about 64 cents per gallon in taxes and fees – the second-highest rate in the nation. In reality, we have the nation’s highest gas tax once you include the new hidden gas tax imposed by regulators to help fund the state’s anti-global-warming efforts.

Californians must even pay taxes on their taxes. That’s double taxation – and it’s wrong.

California’s gas tax is so confusing… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Response to Proposed Gas Tax Cut

On Tuesday, February 24 the State Board of Equalization will consider a proposed 7.5 cent per gallon tax cut.

A gas tax cut of this magnitude would be great news for California drivers, who are currently forced to pay one of the highest gas tax rates in the nation.

The proposed cut stems from falling gas prices and the resulting over collection of tax.

Annual rate changes are required under a confusing and complicated formula enacted by the Legislature in 2010 in order to move a billion dollars to the General Fund. Each year the Board of Equalization must adjust the gas tax rate to ensure the state receives neither more nor less revenue than it would have under the prior tax system.

I look forward to considering the proposed cut with my colleagues when the Board meets on Tuesday, February 24. We invite and welcome public feedback and participation.… Read More

Katy Grimes

Gov. Jerry Brown State of the State: How is California Leading On Anything?

Following a peculiar introduction by California’s First Lady, Gov. Jerry Brown made his State of the State address even more peculiar when he cited dubious United Nations data on climate change. And then the governor announced he wanted 50 percent, instead of the already legislatively mandated one-third of the state’s electricity, under the 2011 Renewable Portfolio Standard, to be generated by renewable resources over the next 15 years. And he added that he wanted to cut petroleum usage by 50 percent.

Californians are faced with 930 new laws effective January 1, by this governor and Legislature.

Brown also said he would wanted to “double the energy efficiency of existing buildings, and make heating fuels cleaner.”

“I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of… Read More

Katy Grimes

Election 2014: ‘Hope’ Finally Makes A Comeback For Reps, Strong Mayor Loses

Wow, what an election night. Hope makes a comeback… but not entirely in California.

As exciting as the nationwide races were, my favorite race was local: Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Strong Mayor initiative, Measure L, went down in defeat, 57-43 percent. Slam Dunk.

Despite the Sacramento media running months of constant free advertising for the measure, Measure L, which would have concentrated power in the Mayor, Chicago-style, and dramatically reduce the other council members’ powers, Sacramento voters voted “no.”

By midnight when I finally gave up and went to bed, the measure appeared to be defeated 57.31 percent to 42.69 percent. Unless more ballots magically appear, the fourth Strong Mayor initiative should be cooked… until Mayor Johnson resurrects it again for a fifth time.

GOP Takes US Senate

But wait! There is… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Lumber Tax Cut for Small Businesses Becomes Law

Legislation I proposed to ease the burden of a lumber tax on small businesses has become law.

Assembly Bill 2031, authored by Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Brown on September 29, 2014.

In 2012, the Legislature enacted AB 1492, which imposed a 1% assessment on lumber and engineered wood products. Unfortunately, the bill did not allow an exemption for qualified businesses that have little or no sales of wood products, causing many retailers to needlessly file returns.

AB 2031 fixes this problem by exempting businesses that sell less than $25,000 in lumber or engineered wood from paying the 1% Lumber Products Assessment. This will save nearly 1,000 businesses the hassle of separately reporting lumber sales to the Board of Equalization.

The legislation was sponsored by the State Board of Equalization and received support from the California Retailers Association, the California Forestry Association, CalTax and many small business owners.

In his… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Further Proof the State Should Not be in the Building Business

Today, the State Auditor issued a report regarding the Board of Equalization’s headquarters building.

The Auditor’s report is a clear indictment of the state’s efforts so far in dealing with the Board of Equalization’s problem-plagued headquarters, which is literally falling apart.

It’s clear the Department of General Services has failed to effectively manage the state’s facilities. The State of California should not be in the building business!

More work is needed, and I look forward to seeing the auditor’s recommendations implemented as soon as possible.

I also look forward to the results of the state facility study required by AB 1656, which should enable us to come up with a long-term solution that makes sense for both California taxpayers and state workers.

Visit the California State Auditor’s website for a complete copy of the report.… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

DMV Needs to Stop Robbing Taxpayers

If you recently purchased a car from a private party, you may have paid too much tax to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

I’ve been hearing complaints from constituents that DMV charged them a higher city tax rate when they don’t actually live within city boundaries.

These constituents were forced to jump through hoops to prove they didn’t owe the higher tax. As their elected representative, I was happy to assist them in obtaining refunds, but DMV should have never overcharged them in the first place.

What’s worse is that these overcharges are not isolated incidents, but rather a systemic problem resulting from DMV’s bizarre reliance on zip codes to determine tax rates.

Sales and use tax rates vary widely across California and change over time. In addition to the statewide sales and use tax rate of 7.5 percent, many cities and counties add voter-approved local taxes. The result is some cities have sales tax rates as high as 10%.

Unlike typical retail transactions, the tax rate for a vehicle sale is based on the address provided to the DMV by the registered owner, not where the sale took place. If you buy your car at a… Read More

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