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Commentary: I have fought for fair tax policies for 8 years

I ran to represent Southern California on the Board of Equalization to change the culture at the state's most-comprehensive tax agency.

On the board, I have fought to protect taxpayers from overly aggressive tax collectors, to support transparency and accountability, and to oppose new and higher taxes that hurt Californians working as hard as they can to achieve the American Dream.

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I've had the honor of representing all of Orange County at the board for nearly eight years.

I am running for Orange County supervisor because I am eager to put my experience as a taxpayer advocate and state constitutional officer to best use representing my community. If elected, I will use my time and my unique skill-set to balance the budget, ensure that the county provides the best services at the lowest cost and improve transparency and accountability.

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At the Board of Equalization, I've sponsored dozens of tax seminars that have helped thousands of business owners meet with tax experts who can help guide them through California's complex tax code. I've worked to increase transparency in board operations and to consolidate board offices to reduce waste.

I have always had an open-door policy, to hear from constituents and help them resolve their disputes with the board. And when done right, it works.

Because of one phone call from a constituent during my first year on the board, I was able to find a multi-million-dollar tax mistake at the agency and return tens of millions of dollars in delayed security deposits to small-business owners. I worked to change agency procedures, and over the years that one phone call led to the timely return of hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers.

Last year, we were able to eliminate the automatic security deposit program — effectively a tax on new businesses — return nearly $100 million more to taxpayers, and free most future businesses from having to post a security deposit as high as $50,000 with the state before even opening their doors.

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In 2007, after hearing the case of a taxpayer who was charged one month's worth of interest for being only one day late in filing his sales taxes online, I proposed legislation that would allow board members to impose only one day of interest on online tax-filers who were only one day late.

My colleagues agreed to join me in sponsoring this pro-taxpayer legislation. The first two tries failed, but in 2010 we had success and our bill was signed into law.

Just last year, in response to a phone call from a taxpayer, I worked with staff and we developed a new tax rate lookup tool, available on the BOE website, that anyone can use to find the right tax rate anywhere in the state and avoid overpaying or underpaying taxes.

These are only a few examples, and they have taught me that in order to be effective and achieve results, an elected official must not only act but be persistent. If given the honor to continue representing Orange County, I will continue to be an effective advocate for all of my constituents.

I am grateful to have received the support of the majority of City Council members and so many residents of District 2.

That strong support tells me my neighbors understand that I have the experience to effectively represent them against state bureaucracies like Caltrans, the skills to go through the county budget, department by department, the persistence to ensure that Orange County residents get their money's worth from government agencies, and the integrity to shine a light on the dark spots of government to create a culture of transparency, efficiency and accountability for all of Orange County.

Surfside resident MICHELLE STEEL is a member of the state Board of Equalization. She is running for the Orange County Board of Supervisors, District 2, which includes Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and portions of Fountain Valley.

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