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Returns Still Not Filed but Taxes Are Paid, Governor Says

June 09, 1987|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian disclosed Monday that he still has not filed his federal and state income tax returns for 1986, explaining that he was in Europe on the April 15 deadline.

But the governor emphasized that he is not delinquent in paying the taxes because he wrote out checks to the federal and state governments for the amounts his accountant figured he owed. Simultaneously, he was granted an extension until Aug. 15 to mail in the returns.

Asked about the irony of a governor not filing his tax returns by the deadline, Deukmejian said, "Well, I don't know that it sets a bad example. . . . I sent the money in. . . . Mostly it was the accountant's problem. They're always very busy at that time of year."

Deukmejian's accountant is Patrick Formby of Long Beach, a longtime friend and treasurer of his campaign committee. "I just haven't gotten around to doing it yet," Formby said in a telephone interview. "I could have filed it. . . . In fact, I'm probably going to get a phone call now from the governor."

Deukmejian acknowledged his tardiness in filing his tax returns in response to a question during a wide-ranging interview with a small group of newspaper reporters. The governor also talked about these issues currently facing his Administration and the Legislature:

Toll roads--He tentatively endorsed a bill passed recently by the Assembly that would allow counties to build toll roads parallel to regular highways. Motorists then could choose to drive, for a price, on a non-congested highway. The measure, by Assemblyman Nolan Frizelle (R-Huntington Beach), is pending in the Senate.

"That's kind of a unique new concept," the governor said. "Californians traditionally have been opposed to toll roads and they appreciate greatly the freeway system. If there's going to be any change in that, it would have to be one in which motorists, indeed, would have a choice. . . . But from what I've heard about (the bill), if it does leave it up to the motorist to make the choice, freely and voluntarily, if they want to pay to ride on a particular stretch of highway, I don't think that would bother me too much."

Cal/OSHA--The governor opened the door slightly to a potential compromise being talked about in the Legislature that would keep alive the state's occupational health and safety program (Cal/OSHA) in exchange for a major reform of the workers' compensation program. Deukmejian has moved to turn over responsibility for worker safety enforcement to the federal government, saving the state $8 million annually.

"I would be open to reviewing any suggestion that might be made. . . . If there's a specific proposal, I'll take a look at it," he said, "but I'd just as soon get rid of it (Cal/OSHA)."

Prison--Deukmejian was pessimistic about the prospect of ever resolving the Los Angeles prison issue and building a state penitentiary near downtown on the industrial Eastside. By law, two new prisons in Stockton and San Diego cannot be opened until a penitentiary is located in Los Angeles County, but the Legislature and the governor cannot agree where to build it.

The governor accused Senate leader David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), who has led the fight against the Eastside proposal, of "not doing anything to resolve this issue." Asked at what point he himself might throw in the towel and start looking elsewhere for a prison site, Deukmejian said slowly, "I don't know at what point we do that."

Regarding his personal income tax, both the governor and his accountant said that time just slipped away from them as April 15 approached. And when it became apparent that the accountant would not have the returns prepared before Deukmejian flew to Europe April 8 on an 11-day trade mission, it was decided to ask for a time extension while mailing in the estimated taxes still owed, they said.

Formby said that the tax preparation earlier had been delayed while Deukmejian waited for information concerning minor oil royalties he received from his Long Beach residential property. But all of the data was available by April, he said.

The accountant said this was the first year Deukmejian ever had missed a tax filing deadline. However, the governor last year reported being assessed $229 in federal and state penalties for not having enough taxes withheld from his payroll checks to cover outside income.

The governor and the accountant said there was not much change in the 1986 income of Deukmejian and his wife, Gloria, from the previous tax year. For 1985, the couple reported income of $70,174.

The subject came up when a reporter noted that Deukmejian had tried to make a big 1986 campaign issue out of the fact that he had publicly released his tax returns, while his Democratic opponent, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, had refused to. Yet this year, it was pointed out, the governor had not released his returns.

"Nobody else seemed to care about the fact Bradley never put out his tax returns," Deukmejian said, a trace of bitterness still in his voice seven months after his landslide reelection victory. "To this day, no one seems to care about that."

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