Runner Interrupted

Katy Grimes: During the Senate floor session today, Senator George Runner, R-Lancaster, experienced a series of frustrating interruptions while asking Senator Wolk about her bill SB 113, “Franchise Tax Board tax administration determinations.”

Runner, attempting to ask about a statement Wolk made during her closing, was cut off by Senate Speaker Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who announced that debate was over. Runner attempted to continue to ask his question, and once again Simitian cut him off. Runner then asked if he could address his question directly to Senator Wolk. When Simitian said that it was okay to do so, Wolk refused to answer with a simple “No.” Simitian said, “at some point we have to close debate.”

In obvious frustration, Runner gave up… for a moment. He finally addressed Simitian again with a parlimentary inquiry, and asked what the procedure was when there was incorrect information given during a closing statement. Simitain said there was no recourse and again referenced the need to close debate.

Wolk’s bill, SB 1113 would authorize the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) — after a final Board Of Equalization (BOE) decision on a taxpayer appeal — to bring a civil action against a corporate taxpayer with a tax discrepancy of more than $1 million or a personal income taxpayer with a tax discrepancy of more than $100,000. Runner said that the bill is “ethically wrong,” in that two of the Franchise Tax Board’s three-member board are constitutionally elected members of the five-member Board of Equalization.

According to a California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA) analysis, SB 1113 would not only allow the state to appeal, but also would require the taxpayer to maintain the burden of proof throughout the entire process, both during administrative appeal, and then again in court should the FTB decide that they do not like the decision made by their own members.

Runner said the events during the floor session show “just how aggressive” the Democrats are over taxation issues.

The proponents claim this bill is about “leveling the playing field” — that the Board of Equalization is somehow inadequately prepared or unqualified to adequately adjudicate these taxpayer appeals. The CMTA explained, “Proponents of the measure seem to claim that the system is unfair. That the poor, disadvantaged tax agency of the State of California has somehow been abused and disadvantaged by the taxpayer for years as a result of an appeals process.  Does the final adjudication by some of the FTB’s own members provides an advantage to the taxpayer?   Under the guise of “leveling the playing field” SB 1113 gives the state’s tax collection agencies on more bite at the apple — apparently agencies representing a state with the 9th largest economy in the world are being abused by the unfair rights of taxpayers.”

While Senator Runner experienced a bite of his own today, the bill was killed in a 13-20 vote.

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