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Tug-of-war tax battle

Former state Sen. George Runner fights for bill 'without a lot of hope'

Posted: May 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Former state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, says now that he’s been elected to one of the state’s tax boards, he enjoys fighting for taxpayers involved in disputes with the government.

His latest battle, Runner said recently, is the fight to consolidate three of the state’s tax agencies under the umbrella of the Board of Equalization — to which he was elected in November.

Runner, now one of five members on the board, calls the tug-of-war battle for administration of state taxes “an interesting issue of dispute.”

He supports Assembly Bill 77, authored by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and introduced in January. The bill is slated to be heard this week in the California Legislature.

It seeks to abolish California’s Franchise Tax Board, consolidating its duties and authority into the state Board of Equalization. It would also transfer the tax administrative functions from the state’s Employment Development Department to the California Board of Equalization.

Without the bill, taxpayers are left to deal with a “faceless bureaucrat,” he said. Should AB 77 pass, it promises to put an elected representative in their court, Runner said.

However, the former senator says he himself gives the bill scant chance of passing.

“I don’t have a lot of hope for it,” Runner said during a recent meeting with The Signal Editorial Board.

Not only is there a three-agency fight over administering taxes, but the governor’s office wants to assume that responsibility. And the Gorell bill would likely require the governor’s signature to become law.

The bill could be put to the voters as a ballot initiative. But, as Runner pointed out, “The problem is it’s kind of like a yawner for the voter out there.”

The Board of Equalization is the only independently elected tax commission in the United States, Runner said.

It’s made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent. The board administers more than 30 taxes, including sales and use tax, tobacco tax, fuel taxes and timber yield taxes.

The board is the appeals body for these, and for state personal income taxes as well.

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