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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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BOE Member George Runner

Relief for Fire Victims Needed Despite Cal Fire Response

A few weeks ago, I sent a letter to Cal Fire urging them to stop the collection of state “Fire Prevention Fee” from victims of the Clover Fire in Shasta County and the Rim Fire in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.

Last week, I finally heard back from Cal Fire.

In his response to my letter Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott stated, “the Fire Prevention Fee statute, as written, provides no authority for Cal Fire to waive fees due to the loss of structures from natural disasters of any kind, nor authority to provide refunds for victims under these circumstances.”

I am disappointed Cal Fire declined my request to halt billing to fire victims. That’s why I have asked local legislators to introduce urgency legislation to waive fees and provide refunds for fire victims who have lost their homes.

I also sent a letter to my constituents affected by the recent wildfires letting them know about my plan.

I hope the Legislature… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Governor Embraces my Idea, but Passes on Making it Law

A few weeks ago, I announced SB 582 (Knight) had reached the Governor’s desk. While Governor Brown vetoed the bill yesterday, he pledged to move the idea forward anyway.

SB 582 would have required the Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board and Employment Development Department to examine how to consolidate their websites, alleviating one of the challenges most business owners face: paying taxes to three separate state tax agencies.

Our legislation was designed to make life easier for taxpayers by creating a one-stop shop for people to visit for all of their tax services.

In his veto message Governor Brown expressed support for the bill’s concept, stating the problem needed to be addressed immediately, rather than studied. He instructed his office to examine “if taxpayer service can be improved in a cost effective manner with a single state Webpage for all state taxes” and then move forward with implementation measures. A complete copy of the… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Making Life Simpler for Taxpayers

I am pleased to announce Senate Bill 582, a joint effort between my office and Senator Steve Knight, has passed both houses of the Legislature and reached the Governor’s desk.

SB 582 will make life simpler for taxpayers by requiring the Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board and Employment Development Department to consider integrating their websites to better serve taxpayers. The idea is to create a one-stop shop for taxpayers to visit for all of their tax services. This will streamline filing requirements by providing taxpayers with up-to-date integrated access to accounts with all three tax agencies.

In a 2005 report the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office urged the creation of a portal that would allow a taxpayer to “log onto a single website and through a series of menus, be directed to the proper form which would allow them to file their taxes or remit a payment.” As you can see, this reform is long overdue.

It’s not easy doing business in California. One of many challenges for a business owner is the confusing… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Taxpayers Speak Out Against Unjust Fire Tax

For the second time in as many years, the State of California is mailing hundreds of thousands of fire tax bills to rural Californians who live in the so-called State Responsibility Area. The bills are hitting mailboxes even as the class action lawsuit I’m backing has finally received a green light to move forward.

As Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association is fond of saying, “the wheels of justice grind slowly.” Although I believe the lawsuit against the fire tax will ultimately prevail, it appears the trial won’t be until next year at the earliest.

Delayed justice means that hundreds of thousands of rural Californians, whether they can afford it or not, must write another check for up to $150 per habitable structure to the State of California to pay this unfair and unjust tax.

Given the confusing and controversial nature of this tax, I’m sponsoring a series of regional telephone town hall meetings to give impacted taxpayers—many of whom are senior citizens living on fixed incomes in mobile homes—an opportunity to receive information and voice their questions and concerns. To date, more than 2000 taxpayers have participated.… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Fire Fee Lawsuit Served on State

Today the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association formally served the California State Board of Equalization, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Department of Justice with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “Fire Prevention Fee.”

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but I’m pleased that this vitally important lawsuit is moving forward. Recent revelations regarding the state’s misuse of fire fee dollars have only strengthened our case that the ‘fire fee’ is really an illegal tax.

I plan to formally join the lawsuit by filing an amicus brief on behalf of the California taxpayers I represent. I’ve opposed the fire fee both during my time in the Legislature and as an elected member of the State Board of Equalization. But I’ve also encouraged impacted Californians to pay it because it is current law.

So far most taxpayers are doing so. Between August and December last year, the state mailed more than 760,000 bills for fiscal year 2011-12. As of March 1, about 72% of bills have been paid in full and 6% paid… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Retroactive Tax on California Entrepreneurs Unwarranted and Unfair

As an elected official and taxpayer advocate, I cannot remain silent while state tax officials punish California taxpayers who in good faith followed our laws.

That’s why I’m urging the Franchise Tax Board to reverse a controversial staff decision seeking millions in retroactive taxes from California entrepreneurs and small businesses.

In my letter to the three members of the Franchise Tax Board, I call FTB’s December 2012 staff action “unwarranted and unfair to taxpayers.”

I explain that the Second District Court of Appeal’s decision in Cutler v. Franchise Tax Board does not require FTB to take this action. I warn that it “sends entirely the wrong message to investors, entrepreneurs and job creators doing business in our state.”

A growing bi-partisan chorus of California legislators, newspapers and… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

October Sales Tax Collections Strong

Some good news for the State of California…

The State Board of Equalization collected $1.86 billion in general fund sales and use tax revenue last month, surpassing the state’s $1.74 billion budget estimate.

The state’s year-to-date general fund sales and use tax revenues are now meeting projections. From July 1 through October 31, the state received $6.5 billion in revenue, narrowly exceeding the state’s budget projection.

October’s revenues came from sales taking place prior to the gas price spike of early October. Retailers must file returns monthly, quarterly or annually depending on the size of their business.

Let’s hope that stronger tax revenues are a reflection of a recovering economy rather than merely the result of higher prices.

Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Gas Tax Revenues Set New Record

It’s bad enough that California’s gas tax is among the highest in the nation. It’s even worse that the gas tax goes up whenever gas prices rise.

Today I released data showing that high gas prices have resulted in a record windfall for government at the expense of California consumers.

California motorists paid a record $8.3 billion in state and local fuel taxes during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

From July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, the California State Board of Equalization collected $6.9 billion in motor vehicle fuel taxes, up from $6.7 billion the prior year. Excise tax revenues accounted for $5.2 billion, while sales tax revenues accounted for $1.7 billion.

Over the same time period, the state collected $1.4 billion in diesel fuel taxes, up from $1.2 billion the prior year. Excise tax revenues accounted for $343 million, while sales tax revenues accounted for $1.1 billion.

Read More

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