This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:

Board of Equalization director says California's imperiled tax collection agency is in 'crisis mode'

The state Capitol. (Sacramento Convention & Visitors)
The state Capitol. (Sacramento Convention & Visitors)

The executive director of the state Board of Equalization told legislators Thursday that some board members have acted to reassign staff and resources without following proper approval procedures involving the board's executive staff.

“It has been a pervasive problem,” David Gau said during a hearing of a state Senate budget subcommittee.

He said the agency is in "a crisis mode" since a state audit was released that found tax officials unable to explain decisions that allocated money to the wrong funds and transferred staff to unauthorized jobs.

Gau went on to say his job has been threatened in the past, but he has received reassurances from the board more recently that he can stay in his post. Still, he said major changes are needed at the tax collection agency.

“My belief as the executive director … is there are structural reforms that need to take place at the Board of Equalization,” Gau said, adding the elected board members should be further restricted from getting involved in the daily operations of the agency.

Democratic Sens. Richard Roth of Riverside and Steve Glazer of Orinda voiced concern about the lack of management controls. 

“I do see breakdowns at all levels here,” Glazer said.

Roth and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office said one option for lawmakers to consider would be to remove most of the board’s executive functions and limit it to handling taxpayer appeals. 

“That to me would see a clean division of responsibility,” Roth said.

Roth also suggested legislators might consider creating an inspector general position so employees could have a place to report misconduct without feeling their job is threatened.

Latest updates

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World