PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

Opinion

My turn: A duty and an honor

By From page A4 | October 03, 2012

As your elected member of the California State Board of Equalization, I’m fighting to protect your taxpayer rights and bring about fair tax policies that help grow our economy and jobs. As always, I welcome your ideas about how we can work together to solve the problems facing our state.

According to a recent AP news article (“Calif. tax collector criticized for opposing fee”), several Democratic leaders, including a few of my colleagues, want me to stop my “high profile campaign” against the new “Fire Prevention Fee.” They argue that my role is to simply to collect taxes — not to speak out against them.

They’re right about one thing. I do have a responsibility to administer taxes. I’m doing everything in my power to ensure that this tax, and others, are administered effectively, efficiently and fairly. I’m also encouraging taxpayers to pay their taxes, so they don’t get caught up with penalties and interest.

There’s a reason California has elected tax officials, rather than bureaucrats, in charge of tax administration and appeals. We are elected to represent the taxpayers in our districts. Doing so involves speaking on their behalf.

Accordingly, I respect the right of my Democratic colleagues to speak on behalf of their constituents — even when they disagree with me.

The new “fire fee” is an unconstitutional and unfair tax, and about half of the folks receiving bills live in my district (about 400,000 people). It’s my duty, and an honor, to speak for them — and I won’t let anyone or anything intimidate or silence me from doing so.

Fire fee update

In the last month and a half, the State of California has mailed more than 300,000 “fire fee” bills to property owners around the state. More than 53,000 people have already paid their fire fee bills, a total of $5.5 million so far.

Additionally, nearly 4,000 people have filed appeals or have protested the tax. The bills are being sent at a rate of 10,000 per day, with bills currently going out to Merced, Modoc, Mono and Monterey Counties. The fire fee mailing schedule has been updated to include counties through San Joaquin.

Compliance with this new tax appears to be averaging about 70 percent. The State Board of Equalization is mailing demand letters starting this week to property owners whose accounts are more than 45 days overdue. This includes nearly 4,600 unpaid accounts in Alameda, Alpine and Amador counties. A sample demand letter is now available on CalFireFee.com.

I’m hearing from constituents around the state about billing errors that have resulted in duplicate bills. One constituent in Lassen County received a bill for an apple orchard that has no buildings of any kind. Another, in Los Angeles County, received three bills for a double-wide trailer; one for each half and one for the structure as a whole. I want to remind you that there is an appeals process for challenging billing errors. For more information, visit CalFireFee.com.

Elected in November 2010, George Runner represents more than 9 million Californians as a member of the State Board of Equalization. For more information about the fire fee, visit calfirefee.com.

George Runner

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