Except for the state income tax, the board administers all major taxes collected by the state, including those on retail sales, alcohol, petroleum products, tobacco, cigarettes, insurance companies and the disposal of toxic waste. It writes property tax regulations and acts as a tax court to settle tax disputes. Four members are elected from districts and the fifth is the controller, who is elected statewide. Board members are paid $95,205 a year.
In District 4, which includes most of Los Angeles County, a race is on between Democrats Brad Sherman, the incumbent, and Dave Elder, a former state assemblyman. In District 2, which stretches from Butte County in the north to San Bernardino and part of the Antelope Valley in the south, state Sen. Robert Presley of Riverside is expected to lead the Democrats and Assemblyman Dean Andal of Stockton the Republicans. There is no incumbent in that race. In District 3, which covers the far southern portion of the state and reaches into parts of southern Los Angeles County, incumbent Ernest Dronenburg is not expected to face a serious challenge.
Elder is pushing for changes in the way the board operates, contending that it takes too long to resolve tax disputes. He says the board should meet more often to erase a backlog of cases. He favors changing the way sales taxes are distributed so cities get more tax revenue. Sherman is seeking reform of tax laws and regulations affecting municipalities. Heavy dependence on sales tax collected from retail businesses, he contends, has forced cities to seek retail development over manufacturing.
This year's State Board of Equalization races are not expected to be as contentious as some in the past. During the last election two Democratic incumbents--Paul Carpenter and William Bennett--were under criminal investigation and their legal problems dominated the campaign. Both were reelected, but a federal criminal conviction prevented Carpenter from serving and Bennett resigned without serving out his term. This year only two incumbents are seeking reelection, Sherman and Dronenburg.
* Age: 53
* Residence: Los Angeles
* Current position: Executive assistant to the city manager of Long Beach
* Education: Bachelor's degree, Cal State Long Beach
* Career highlights: In the Assembly, where he served seven terms, Elder became the Legislature's chief watchdog over the state's two largest pension systems. He used his position as chairman of the Assembly Public Employees Retirement Committee to critique the Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) and the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and the way they invested more than $125 billion in pension funds. He made headlines exposing a decision by CalPERS in 1990 to purchase $400 million in real estate stock that later plummeted 75% in value. But sometimes his criticisms missed the mark. After the Wall Street crash of October, 1987, he scolded officials for investing too heavily in stocks only to see the value of those investments soar a few years later when the market rebounded. After his district was reapportioned, he was defeated in the June, 1992, Democratic primary.
* Family: Married, four children
* Age: 39
* Residence: Santa Monica
* Current position: Incumbent and the tax board's chairman
* Education: Bachelor's degree, UCLA; law degree, Harvard Law School
* Career highlights: Sherman has held the chairmanship of the State Board of Equalization during some of its most tumultuous years. After two of its members faced criminal charges involving their conduct in office, Sherman tried to rebuild the image of the agency by taking visible positions on big tax issues. He criticized the Legislature and Gov. Pete Wilson for imposing a sales tax on snacks, calling it a "nightmare" to administer, and campaigned for an initiative that repealed the tax. Until his election to the board in 1990, Sherman had not held public office. He previously worked as a certified public accountant and an attorney specializing in tax matters.
* Family: Unmarried