GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER'S vetoes of several bills that would have strengthened the enforcement of business tax laws were cheered by the usual suspects. Business and anti-tax groups have reason to rejoice, but their happiness comes at a cost to the rest of the state.
The Legislature's tax-collection measures were passed this session on the heels of a resoundingly successful program that collected billions of dollars in unpaid corporate taxes by offering an amnesty, in combination with bigger penalties for those who don't pay up. Schwarzenegger had credited that program for allowing him to restore $1.3 billion in sorely needed transportation funding to the state budget this year, along with some education funding.
Among the vetoed measures was a 50% penalty on businesses that fail to turn over state sales taxes collected from customers. He apparently bought the reasoning of the Chamber of Commerce, which said in a statement, "There could be many benign reasons why a retailer inadvertently fails to remit sales taxes." There could also be benign reasons, such as an overdue college tuition bill or an unforeseen medical expense, that others among us would need extra time to pay a state income tax bill. Surely the governor will understand that, rather than lose another perfectly good taxpayer to Nevada.