Fork it over

Oct 16, 2012

When it comes to money, nobody needs it more than the state of California, but attempts to get tax delinquents to pay up isn't going so well.


From Matt Drange in the Bay Citizen: "Despite the state’s desperate need for revenue, the tax board largely has been unsuccessful in collecting the $8 billion in delinquent income taxes it is owed."


"The tax board began highlighting tax deadbeats in 2007 by publishing a list of the top offenders and filing liens against their assets, which allows the board to collect payment when property is sold. To be placed on the list, an individual or business must have been notified by the tax board seven times and must owe more than $100,000."


"Franchise Tax Board spokesman Daniel Tahara said the idea behind publicizing the names was to give delinquent taxpayers “motivation to get back into compliance.” But in many ways, the list illustrates the limits of the collection effort. In the past five years, the board has collected $177 million from individuals and businesses on the list, many of whom have appeared numerous times."


A former U.S. Senator known for his negotiating skills has been tapped to help decide a fine for PG&E in the San Bruno gas line explosion.


From Joshua Melvin in the Mercury News: "Former Sen. George Mitchell is to oversee the negotiations between Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Public Utilities Commission that officials hope will draw to a close the regulatory proceedings that began after the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion."


"PUC President Michael Peevey said the commission is grateful for help resolving this "difficult and painful series of cases..."


"PG&E also voiced support for Mitchell's appointment, but some of the utility's critics questioned the former senator's ties to other big utility companies, including one Peevey once ran.

The negotiations have already drawn withering criticism from local officials, lawmakers and the survivors of the blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. They were angry that an arm of the PUC had asked that a public hearing on the blast, which would help determine PG&E's fine, be suspended to allow the parties to focus on a settlement."


The city of Vernon, the industrial town south of L.A. that has been plagued by scandals, seems to be embroiled in a new one -- voter fraud.


From the LAT's Sam Allen: "The decision by former Superior Court Judge Debra Yang came after an unusual hearing process last month at City Hall in which dozens of voters were questioned about their commuting patterns, financial histories and even Facebook pages. Yang concluded that five of the voters in question were not residents of the city. Two others, she said, did not properly mail in their ballots.

If approved by the City Council, the decision would tilt the race in favor of candidate Luz Martinez, a former secretary to Vernon’s top administrator, who had trailed 34 votes to 30. It would also reverse a previous decision made by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, which dismissed the voter challenges this summer and called the race for Martinez’ opponent, Reno Bellamy.

Fredric Woocher, the lawyer representing the city's Chamber of Commerce, which brought the challenges, called the decision a vindication Monday, saying it showed democracy could work in Vernon despite its population of just 112 people.


Unions aren't the only ones offering campaign cash to Proposition 30, the governor's tax initiative that would raise money for schools and public safety. Corporate players are out there, too.


From the Chronicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "Disney, Sony, CBS, NBC, Viacom, Warner Bros. and other entertainment businesses have given Prop. 30 a total of nearly $1 million. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Occidental Petroleum and other energy companies have thrown in roughly $1 million between them."


"Soft-drink companies - which are spending millions to try to defeat soda taxes in Richmond and El Monte (Los Angeles County) - have dipped into their campaign coffers to give half-a-million dollars to Brown's effort to temporarily raise state sales and income taxes."


"Other business donors to Prop. 30 include real estate groups, casinos and racetracks. Entertainment moguls and celebrities, including Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand, also have made donations."

With all the talk about taxes and initiatives, one source of money for schools hasn't gotten a lot of attention lately -- the lottery.


From Tom Chorneau in the SI&A Cabinet Report: "State lottery sales could reach close to $5 billion during the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to an updated forecast from the California Department of Education."


"As a result, the CDE is increasing its projection for what schools can expect to receive in lottery support in the coming year from $150 per unit of average daily attendance to $154 per ADA."


"That is, an increase from $122 to $124 for unrestricted lottery revenues and $28 to $30 for the Proposition 20 set aside. As recently as July, the California Lottery Commission was predicting it would close out 2011-12 with sales of about $4.4 billion, with an outlook of $4.8 billion in 2012-13. Now, says the commission, lottery sales for 2011-12 are likely to be closer to $4.87 billion."

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