YouÕre in the voting booth and you already know who youÕre backing for El Dorado County sheriff and Placerville City Council. Now for the really important choice Ñ who do you select to be on the California Board of Equalization?
What Chris Parker, 35, of Sacramento would like you to know is that the BOE is far more important to the average state resident than one might imagine Ñ and heÕd also like you to know that he believes he is the best person to fill the single vacancy on the BOE come Nov. 2.
Parker, a Democrat, visited the Mountain Democrat this week, part of a statewide driving campaign that has put 60,000 miles on his 2007 quartz-gray Audi since February of 2009 as he tries to get his message out to the voters in the sprawling, 34-county BOE district that runs from Siskiyou County in the north to Los Angeles in the south, and includes El Dorado County.
Parker, a tax attorney for the state Franchise Tax Board, said he made the decision to run for the BOE in November of 2008, at his grandfatherÕs funeral.
ÒI took a look at what I was doing and decided to take action,Ó he said.
The BOE is the body that is called upon to act as a tax court when the 10 percent of taxpayers who skirt the law are called to task. The state loses some $8 billion a year to tax fraud, and thatÕs a number that Parker said he can help cut in half if elected to a four-year term on the BOE.
His major opponent, Republican state Sen. George Runner, doesnÕt have the experience or expertise in the tax field that Parker enjoys, he said, and that experience is a crucial element in being able to effect change and progress at the BOE, according to the young candidate.
ÒExperience matters,Ó Parker said simply. ÒIÕm a tax attorney and it only makes sense that my expertise would be needed (on the BOE). I would bring a perspective that Mr. Runner does not.Ó
Parker cited RunnerÕs background working in the criminal justice arena and said, ÒIf Mr. Runner were running for attorney general, he would have more experience than I. But in the matter of tax law, he does not.Ó
Parker also said his opponent would ÒignoreÓ the problem of those cheating the tax system, citing a newspaper article in the Redlands Daily Facts in San Bernardino County in which Runner is quoted as saying intentional tax fraud ÒisnÕt that big a problem and that people will always find a way around the system.Ó
Parker added that Runner, 58, has made statements regarding the fact that Runner would Òfocus on tax ratesÓ if elected, and Parker pointed out Òthat is not what the BOE does.Ó
ÒWhat I would do as a member of the Board of Equalization is to help level the playing field that gives tax cheats a competitive advantage while honest businesses and taxpayers foot the bill. I will help to streamline the stateÕs bureaucracy and implement new technology to help ensure tax scofflaws are brought to justice.Ó
Parker said he also would strive to ensure that those brought before the BOE, the stateÕs Òtax court,Ó would receive a fair and impartial hearing.
Reared by a single mom, Parker held many difficult jobs, including shoveling manure, growing up in Oregon. He said that Òhumble beginningÓ helped him understand the basic tenets of a just society.
ÒI believe in fairness, integrity and rewarding those who work while holding accountable those who cheat,Ó he said.
As an attorney with the state Franchise Tax Board, Parker has prosecuted tax cheats and collected millions in taxes owed. He received an award from the FTB for his ideas to save the state money by adding efficiency and improving service to taxpayers.
Parker said another idea that he would like to see implemented would be a combining of forces between the FTB, the BOE and the state Employment Development Department. Currently all three bodies employ separate staffs, including fraud investigators, who often may be duplicating their efforts. By collaborating, Parker said, there would be a more efficient use of resources and the investigative divisions of each would not be as likely to be working the same cases with resulting, costly redundancy.
And Parker emphasized advancing technology when it comes to the BOE, explaining that current practices there were Òdeveloped when I was in high school.Ó
ÒTheyÕre using what was cutting edge when I was in high school, and IÕm coming up on my 20th reunion,Ó Parker smiled.
The relatively young statewide candidate (he said heÕs not the youngest ever to run for the BOE, but close) said this is the first time heÕs sought public office, unless you count the time he ran for student body president at Jesuit High School in Beaverton, Ore. He lost that race to his best friend, by the way.
For this race, ParkerÕs endorsements fill a long list that includes state Controller John Chiang, state Assemblyman Dave Jones (his very first endorsement) and Congressman Dennis Cardoza. ÒThe congressman served with Sen. Runner and still chose to endorse me … I appreciate his support,Ó Parker said.
He added that his campaign financing has come largely from friends, family and private donors.
Regarding the vast and important role the Board of Equalization plays in the lives of Californians, Parker said, ÒMore than a million businesses are registered with the BOE. To invest, expand and thrive in California, businesses must have confidence in meeting their tax obligations and resolving tax issues in a fair and timely manner. Business also wants a level playing field.
ÒThose who cheat tend to undersell their honest competitors. When the playing field is level, the honest and hardworking business owners win.Ó
Parker is active in the Sacramento community, helping to clean up the American River Parkway, feeding the homeless and collecting toys for foster kids in need. He also has volunteered to prepare tax returns for low-income families.
As he packed up his briefcase at the Mountain Democrat and prepared for putting some more miles on the AudiÕs odometer, Parker was asked whether he has a wife and children.
Mentioning again the rigors of the campaign trail, Parker replied, ÒNo Ñ if I had a wife she would have left me already.Ó
E-mail Pat Lakey at [email protected] or call 530-344-5066.