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Taxes to Fund Library Systems

November 06, 1987

Your editorial "Not Just For Wimps" (Oct. 25) perked my attention.

You note that Shasta County for want of $5 million is closing its country library system. What a loss!

There is a cause-and-effect relationship here coming from the constitutional function of the State Board of Equalization to assess public utility property. Among other properties, we assess the realty and improvements of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. which is a major property holder in Shasta County.

The utilities, over the years, have made it a practice to contribute generously to members of the state Board of Equalization. And so, after the staff--an expert staff I might add--found a value of $17 billion for PG&E, and PG&E itself said its properties were worth $16.9 billion, the board majority established a property tax value of $16.4 billion, which was not only lower than the $17 billion recommended by the staff but a half-billion dollars lower than PG&E's own estimate. That one decision saved PG&E more than $5 million in taxes.

And so the importance of government asserts itself again, and particularly the necessity for public officials to recognize the impact of official action. Could the library system of Shasta County been saved if PG&E were required to pay its fair share of taxes? At the very least, it certainly could have helped.

Incidentally, I do not accept contributions at all, whether from public utilities or others.

WILLIAM M. BENNETT

Member, State Board of Equalization

Sacramento

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