Readers React

Board of Equalization knows what it's doing on airlines

To the editor: Michael Hiltzik unfairly criticizes a Board of Equalization-supported proposal to simplify property tax assessment of airline property in California. ("Airlines are looking for a big tax break in California," May 1)

SB 661 centralizes property tax assessment of commercial airline property, ending a complicated county-by-county system that's spawned years of legal disputes. It would reduce costs, improve government efficiency and bring California's system in line with most other states that impose property tax on commercial aircraft.

Hiltzik says the airline industry is "disingenuous" and only wants a tax break. Fact: The board implements laws passed by the Legislature; we don't hand out tax cuts.

Centralized assessment has never been rejected outright; a compromise resulted in the current "lead county" system that solved some problems. In fact, two prior authors of similar legislation serve on the board and support SB 661.

Hiltzik omits the board's expertise in property tax assessments. Established in 1879, the Board of Equalization regulates county assessment practices, equalizes ratios and assesses railroad and utility properties. In fact, it wrote regulations for the current system of aircraft assessment and provides ongoing guidance and oversight of assessors regarding these matters. We know this issue.

George Runner and Fiona Ma, Sacramento

The writers are elected members of the State Board of Equalization.

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