There are eight statewide Constitutional Officers: the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Controller, State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. These officers are all elected at the same time in a General Election and may be re-elected to a maximum of two four-year terms.

In preparation for the upcoming election, we are releasing a quick background of each of the Constitutional Officers and what they actually do in the California government.

To begin, we start with the California Board of Equalization (BOE).

The State BOE was created in 1879 under the California Constitution in Article V, Section 14 (f) and Article XIII Section 17. To equalize, in the legal definition, means to balance. Hence, the BOE was charged with responsibility for ensuring that county property tax assessment practices were equal, balanced, and uniform throughout the state. The Board does not have power or the responsibility to adjust taxes directly, just to assess their practices. The Board consists of five members, four of whom represent districts, and the State Controller. The four districts are subject to redistricting every ten years under the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.  

The current members of the State BOE, and their districts, are:

  • Betty Yee (D) – State Controller
  • George Runner (R), First District – Counties of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, Yuba, and portions of Los Angeles.
  • Fiona Ma (D), Second District – Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, and Yolo.
  • Jerome Horton (D), Third District – Counties of Los Angeles and Ventura and a portion of San Bernardino County.
  • Diane Harkey (R), Fourth District – Counties of Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and a portion of San Bernardino County.

The BOE was responsible for administering various state and county taxes, hearing tax appeals, and overseeing county property tax assessments. However, in 2017, the Board was stripped of its powers under AB 131, now California Government Code 15600(d)(2). The provision strips powers in regards to:

  • Conducting a tax practices appeals hearing
  • Making a determination or publishing a decision on an appeal
  • Taking any other action with respect to an appeal heard after January 1, 2018

Those powers were redirected to the Office of Tax Appeals.

The BOE now has following responsibilities under California Gov Code Sec. 15600(b):

  • The review, equalization, or adjustment of a property tax assessment
  • The review or measurement of county assessment levels
  • The tax practices assessment of water storage transportation lying within two or more counties and property
  • The assessment of taxes on insurers
  • The assessment and collection of taxes on the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcoholic beverages
  • The duty to adjust the rate of the motor vehicle fuel tax through the 2018–19 fiscal year

The BOE made waves over the new fuel tax by openly opposing the increase in tax earlier this year. While they do not have a direct power to deny the tax, the BOE turned down the recommendation to increase taxes, which raised controversy over the validity of the necessity to increase those taxes.

Molly Alcorn also contributed to this post.

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