Friday, April 18, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

My turn: A duty and an honor

By
From page A4 | October 03, 2012 | 1 Comment

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.

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Discussion | 1 comment

  • Jim RiordanOctober 04, 2012 - 1:54 pm

    Dear Mr. Runner, It is always a pleasure to read your “My Turn” articles re the SBE, which I believe is one of the most arrogant and abusive agencies in California. I occasionally serve as a Chapter 11 Federal Trustee on criminal bankruptcy cases. I have a (to me) funny story to share with you about the SBE arrogance. A while back I was working on an agricultural property bankruptcy. The property sold agricultural goods at retail from its location. I received a call to my office from a rude SBE agent instructing me that I “had to go to her office and sign my own personal name to the business’s already existing resale license”, which the debtor had signed long ago. This rude individual left her number and demanded I call her back “promptly”. I did. I was put on hold for 11 minutes before being handed to a recording requesting me to leave a message. I left my office phone number. A day later I get a call back from her. My admin asst. answered the phone. She put the lady on hold and told me it was the SBE. I asked her to let me know when 11 minutes had passed. She did and I picked up the phone to hear this rude voice asking, “Do you know how long I have been on hold?” I said Yes Ma’am I know precisely how long you have been on hold . . . 11 minutes, which is how long I was on hold on your phone yesterday.” She proceeded to tell me, “you have a bad attitude,” And “you must come in here and sign your name personally guaranteeing the payment of sales tax from this business.” She said “you are one of only two Fed trustees in California who have refused to do so.” Then it was my turn. I told her, ” let’s review this, all you want me to do is collect your money on each sale, keep the funds secure, take your money to the bank and deposit it, keep all records and then every so often fill out a form that you say takes 5 minutes but we can prove takes 4 times that long , and then safely deliver your money back to you . . . and for all of that this business does not get one red cent and you say I have a bad attitude” I told her, If you want businesses to have a “good” attitude, give us 2% of what we collect for you.” I then told her, “Under Fed rules in Chap. 11, as trustee I ‘step into the shoes of the debtor’ and those shoes happen to come with a resale permit. I am playing in a Fed playground and you are in a State playground, so I respectfully refuse to sign anything”. I never did sign personally and I have always been aggravated by the way the SBE tries to bully businesses. George, you are a refreshing change. Please keep up your great work. And ok, how about 1%?

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