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Bill Leonard - Contributor

Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization

A Week Under the Dome
Lessons Learned, White House Christmas, Silly Politics, Silly Tax...

[Bill Leonard] 12/22/03


Lessons Learned

I feel the pain of Republican legislators. The good news is that they have a Governor of their party. The bad news is that they have a Governor of their party. The sooner they learn that it is better to have a Governor of your own party the better off they will be. Most legislators have never served with a Republican governor, so they are only used to direct negotiations with Governor Davis. Now both parties‚ legislative leaders need to shift to negotiations with Governor Schwarzenegger. When I was Assembly Republican leader I used to joke that I served as staff to Governor Wilson. As with all humor, people laughed at the line because it had such truth in it. My role was to give the Governor a sense of the Republican caucus on the issues and to encourage the Governor to position himself in concert with the legislative caucuses. I worked to convince the Governor and his staff about the merits of our position and how that would also benefit him. But when the Governor announced a position that was different than the caucus‚s, then the Republican legislators were put in a difficult position. To vote with the Governor meant compromising on some important policy point, which is always hard to do. To vote against the Governor just handed greater political leverage to the Democrats, which is not very politically smart. (And it often made the Governor mad, which is also not very politically smart.) Republican legislators need to adjust their role of confrontation with the Governor, which they did very well against Governor Davis, and work with the new Governor and his staff to persuade them of the best strategies and objectives. This is much more of an inside process than their relations with Davis, but with a friend in the corner office, Republican legislators can be much more successful.

A White House Christmas

Our Christmas season was made very special this year with an invite to the White House Christmas Party. Sherry and I had a great time. The White House was decorated as a Christmas wonderland with 12-foot tall toy soldiers in red uniforms standing guard over the Marine Corps Band in their red uniforms. As the music the band played carried throughout the first floor, we wandered from room to room looking at the decorations. I had seen the portraits before but had never seen the fine renderings of Lincoln, Reagan and others surrounded by holly garlands and dozens of Christmas bulbs. There were trees to the ceiling in every room with four trees alone in the East Room. It was fun to see so many Californians there and we caught up with long time friends while pinching ourselves because we were really in this special place. The President and the beautiful First Lady met each of us for a photo. I have been in lots of photo lines, but I have never had a military escort announce "Sherry and Bill Leonard" to the President. I thanked him for his perseverance and congratulated him on the capture of the ex-Iraqi dictator. He told me that there was more good news to come. Most of the staff at the party, including the military escorts and those who help with White House tours, were volunteers. One soldier we talked with was from the Los Angeles area and was now serving with Homeland Security on port security planning. She volunteered for the White House assignment and took training over and above her work on the ports. When I thanked her for her extra duty she said she did not consider serving at the White House as duty but as a thrill for her to help the President. Our nation is in good hands as we celebrate this holiday season.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The whooshing sound you hear in Sacramento is the rug being pulled out from under the Democrat legislators who have been trying to blame Governor Schwarzenegger for the lack of payments to the local governments. They want Schwarzenegger to choose between hurting local governments and raising taxes, but they did not count on a creative, activist Governor who, unlike his predecessor, is willing to take risks. The Governor has ordered the money to be paid to local governments and has again called on the legislature to authorize his proposed cuts to pay for this. Spending first and paying second is not the usual position of risk-averse governors. This governor has deftly avoided the trap. Now he can say that the cuts have to be passed or the state will run out of money. Some legislators are starting to understand that the 2004 elections will focus on their irresponsible spending and the election could amount to a recall of the legislature if more legislators do not "get it" soon.

The Silly Season

The silly season is already here for the 2004 elections. (Yes, that assumes the season had end.) I had to laugh at the accusation by Republican Senate candidate Rosario Marin that Republican Senate candidate Bill Jones got special treatment by Democrat Secretary of State Kevin Shelly. Not only is this far fetched, it is also a 'so-what'. Marin and Jones were both given the same amount of time after their filing for the Senate to submit their candidate statements. The fact that Jones filed for the office later than Marin did meant that his deadline was later, but not any longer. I would really rather hear from Marin how she would vote differently than Jones in the U.S. Senate. I would really rather hear what the candidates consider to be the biggest issues facing the next Congress and how they would handle them. I would really rather hear how they plan to confront U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer with her bad votes. Jones has always campaigned on issues, which in this day and age makes him a stand out candidate.

A Silly Tax

I recently received a phone call from an official in the grocery industry who had a question about whether sales tax could be charged on the California Redemption Value (CRV) that is charged on beverage containers. When I researched this issue, I discovered the source of my caller‚s confusion. The Board‚s own regulations, publications, manuals and bulletins are not clear and consistent. I have asked the Board‚s legal staff to clarify, but I am stunned that such clarity is even required. The CRV is not tangible personal property and there is no justification for charging a tax on it. It is as silly as the sales tax that is levied on the gasoline tax. Consumers are being overcharged and overtaxed and that practice should cease immediately. Unfortunately, government is so addicted to spending that it no longer bases taxing decision on what is right or fair, but on what is needed to continue to feed the insatiable bureaucracy.

Collecting on Electronics

Beginning July 1, 2004, you will be paying a new fee (read tax) when you purchase computers and televisions and the Board of Equalization has been tasked with collecting that fee from retailers. The goals of the new law (see are to encourage manufacturers to phase out hazardous materials in electronic devices, increase the use of recycled materials, and provide adequate revenue to allow for the proper disposal of existing hazardous materials. None of these goals will be achieved because of this tax, but that does not stop the legislature and the old Governor from adding to your burdens. The fees will be as follows, and may be adjusted every two years: A. Six dollars ($6) for each electronic device with a screen size of less than 15 inches measured diagonally. B. Eight dollars ($8) for each electronic device with a screen size greater than or equal to 15 inches but less than 35 inches measured diagonally. C. Ten dollars ($10) for each electronic device with a screen size greater than or equal to 35 inches measured diagonally.





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