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Bill Leonard - Contributor

Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization

A Week Under the Dome...
[Bill Leonard] 9/17/04

Advice to the Governor

Governor Schwarzenegger is no doubt receiving plenty of advice from legislators, interest groups and individuals around the state who want him to sign into law or veto some of the hundreds of bills on his desk. While many of the bills awaiting his decision represent large social or political issues, some are just plain bad government and deserve vetoes for wasting taxpayer time and money. Some of these bad bills worthy of his veto pen are:

A.B. 2644 requires school bus drivers to turn off their engines within 100 feet of a school and prohibits them from turning on their engine any more than 30 seconds before departure. The goal is to limit the amount of particulate matter children breath. I have long been an advocate of clean air policies and cleaner fuels, but it is a silly mistake to believe we can drastically improve their health by reducing the few moments a day a child might breath excess bus fumes. It is also unenforceable and impractical.

A.B. 1825 requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisorial employees every two years. The additional cost to state government is estimated at $1 million and between 50,000 and 60,000 personnel hours. State law already requires employers to provide a harassment-free work environment; how they do that should be up to them. State supervisors are already put through 80-hours of training; we can incorporate any additional instruction that is necessary into that curriculum.

A.B. 2545 adds additional penalties to employers who do not provide employees access to exits. Again, existing law already covers this, obviously. The bill is another not-so-veiled attack on Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

A.B. 2684 exempts non-profit organizations from the requirement to verify the citizenship status of people they are trying to place in jobs. There is much controversy about illegal immigration, but this seems to be an open invitation to encourage those who do not have the right to work in this country to seek employment through other sources to skirt the law.

The Race for BoE Chair

The chairwoman of the Board of Equalization, Carol Migden, is running for the State Senate. She will win her seat, leaving the chair vacant. The chairperson sets the Board agenda and serves on the Franchise Tax Board. Rumors have already started about who will succeed her in this post. Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-2 on the Board, but we generally work in a bipartisan fashion and nearly everyone has voted for someone of the opposite party to have a run as chair. Controller Steve Westly seems to be changing that tradition. He is rumored to have declared that he will not vote for a Republican as chair, meaning me or Claude Parrish. Westly himself is not eligible to be chair because the Controller already sits on the FTB and cannot occupy two of those three seats, and the Migden seat will be vacant pending the legal question about whether her Chief Deputy can be elected Chair. That means Westly’s vote can only go to John Chiang.

More Boards to Cut

Here is the third installment of the list of boards and commissions recommended for elimination by the Governor's California Performance Review: Air Resources Board, Board of Geologists and Geophysicists, Boating and Waterways Commission, Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, Colorado River Board, Delta Protection Commission, Heritage Preservation Commission, Historical Resources Commission, Integrated Waste Management Board, Interagency Aquatic Invasive Species Council, Oil Spill Technical Advisory Commission, Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission, State Lands Commission, State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, and the Structural Pest Control Board.

Where You Live Can Cost You

This summer, Kiplinger's magazine published an interesting survey, the State of Taxes, which shows dramatic disparities among state and local tax bills around the country. To make the case that where you live matters a lot when it comes to taxes, Kiplinger's used the most populous cities in each state, plus Washington, D.C., for the rankings. They started by assuming a hypothetical family of four with an annual income of $90,000, which is about the median for readers of the magazine. Kiplinger's also assumed the family invests a certain percentage of income, owns a typical home for the family based on local prices, and buys 1,000 gallons of gas a year. Based on these assumptions, the best city in the U.S. to live in terms of tax burden is:

1.Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Income tax = 0
Property tax = $830 (on a home valued at $123,100)
Sales tax = $1,250
Personal property tax = 0
Gas tax = $140
Total = $2,220

L.A. came in at #43 (out of 51)
Income tax = $2,579
Property tax = $4,200 (on a home valued at $333,200)
Sales tax = $1,650
Personal property tax = 0
Gasoline tax = $180
Total = $8,609

At #51 -- the worst -- is Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Income tax = $2,979
Property tax = $7,206 (on a home valued at $186,500)
Sales tax = $840
Personal property tax = $1,352
Gasoline tax = $250
Total = $12,627

Other rankings: Las Vegas was #6 at $3,744. Seattle was #10 at $5,387.
Portland was #44 at $8,619. New York was #50 at $11,078.

Helping Churches Fight Regulation

The Leonard Letter recently trumpeted a publication to help churches stay within the tax laws while exercising their First Amendment right to speak out on political issues. This week, I recommend a booklet from the Claremont Institute called “Faith-Based, Not Bureaucracy-Bound.” The booklet teaches church leaders how to make their case to elected officials, and how to protect their rights to property and their ability to worship freely. Contact the Claremont Institute at CRO




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