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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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BOE Member George Runner

Board Votes to Cut State Gas Tax

Today, I joined a 3-2 Board of Equalization vote to lower the state excise tax on gasoline by 2.2 cents per gallon effective July 1, 2016.

Our vote was simply a matter of fairness. Californians overpaid gas tax last year because of a bizarre formula known as the ‘gas tax swap’ passed by lawmakers in 2010. Lowering the rate is the right thing to do, and I’m sure Californians will welcome this reduction.

Unfortunately, even after the cut goes into effect, Californians will still pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. What we need now is for lawmakers to simplify our tax laws and look for ways to provide value for the money that Californians send to government.… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Revenue Report Dangerous in the Wrong Hands

At the request of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, the Board of Equalization’s Research and Statistics Section today released a report showing the State of California could reap up to $122.6 billion by imposing sales and use tax on services.

The size and scope of California’s service-related industry is mind-blowingly large, and the last thing overtaxed Californians need is another tax. In fact, these numbers are dangerous in the hands of legislators who want to raise taxes.

However, I hope this report stimulates conversation about how taxes can be simpler, and how we can attract more jobs to our state.

Although I strongly oppose Senate Bill 8 (Hertzberg), which would impose a $10 billion tax increase on service industries, I am open to considering a broader sales tax if it’s part of revenue neutral tax reform, such as abolishing the Franchise Tax Board and California’s income tax, along with other taxes that destroy jobs.

I’ve called for dynamic economic modeling that would show the benefits of such a change and look forward to being able to share those results with you… Read More

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

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

Government Stalling Tactics Slow Fire Tax Lawsuit

As Californians hope and pray for an end to California’s drought and dangerous fire conditions, I am thankful for the many brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight fires throughout our state.

We’re also reminded that not one dime of our state’s so-called “Fire Prevention Fee” has helped fund this year’s firefighting efforts.

Someday a court will strike down the unfair and, I believe, illegal fire tax enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2010.

But getting there is proving quite a challenge.

As you may recall, in 2012 the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), with my strong support, filed a class action lawsuit seeking to invalidate the so-called fee on the basis that it is really an illegally enacted tax.

Since then, California Department of Justice attorneys paid with your tax dollars have repeatedly sought to do everything in their power to slow the case down.

I’m told some of the state’s stalling tactics go far beyond what is typical of government attorneys involved in legal proceedings. These tactics include filing multiple demurrers aimed at blocking… 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

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