Four Layers Of Tax And Money Management And We Still Worry About Politicians Cruising Gay Bars

Well, I’d say that my state senator’s bid for a seat on the Board of Equalization just got a whole lot easier. Not even this sort of damage control is going to help in a place like Bakersfield — as one comedian put it: “In Bakersfield, you you can find two kinds of voters: conservative people, and very conservative people.”  So, Senator Runner is pretty much a shoo-in for the BoE because seat 2 is gerrymandered for the Republicans and Runner’s only real opponent for it was Ashburn, who is now radioactive at the ballot box, at least in BoE District 2.

And that gets me to wondering — am I happy that George Runner will sit on the BoE?  I guess to answer that question, I need to ask, why do we have a BoE in the first place?  Let’s go take a look and see what they do:

The Board of Equalization collects California state sales and use tax, as well as fuel, alcohol, and tobacco taxes and fees that provide revenue for state government and essential funding for counties, cities, and special districts. 

Oh. I thought getting the money was the Treasurer’s job.  So, what does the Treasurer do?  (Aside from panic, these days?)  Well, according to the Treasurer’s website:

The office of California State Treasurer has broad responsibilities and authority in the areas of investment and finance.  The Treasurer is elected statewide every four years. In addition to being the State’s lead asset manager, banker and financier, the Treasurer serves as chairperson or a member of numerous State authorities, boards and commissions.

I see.  Well, then, what about the Comptroller?  Ah, yes, he eliminates fraud, graft and waste:

The State Controller is the Chief Fiscal Officer of California, the eighth largest economy in the world. As the state’s independent fiscal watchdog, the Controller provides sound fiscal control over more than $100 billion in annual receipts and disbursements of public funds. He uses his audit authority to uncover fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars and provides fiscal guidance to our local governments. The Controller helps administer two of the largest public pension funds in the nation. 

And, of course, the bulk of the money received by the state comes through the Franchise Tax Board, which is jointly run by the Controller, the chairman of the BoE, and a gubernatorial appointee, the head of the Department of Finance.

Wow, with this many people in charge of our money, how’d we ever come up short?  I’ve been accused of being “radical” recently on this blog.  Well, I’ve got a radical idea, and if Californians pass Propositions 1 and 2 in November, and I get appointed to the Constitutional Convention as a delegate (which I would dearly love to do and for which I am both eligible and very qualified), one thing I’m going to suggest is that we abolish the separate constitutional offices of all these different sources of revenue and consolidate them into a single agency, to be called the California Department of Revenue, and which would be headed by five commissioners appointed to staggered five-year terms by the Governor.

Indeed, I’ve played with the idea that nearly everything the state government does should be done under the auspices of the Governor’s office — with the exception of law enforcement and criminal prosecution, because an independent judiciary and prosecution office would keep the governor honest.  So I could get really radical and suggest that there be only two statewide elected officers at all, the Governor and the Attorney General, and if the Governor’s office is ever vacant for any reason, the Attorney General becomes Governor for the rest of the term and there is an immediate special election to replace the AG.  How’s that for making the government efficient?

Anyway, it’s curtains for Roy Ashburn, an apparently pleasant sinecure for George Runner, and a lot of different organs of government in similar but not quite overlapping areas of jurisdiction for the rest of us to pay for with $26 billion we don’t have.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.