California Democratic lawmakers recently introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11 (ACA 11) which proposes to abolish the State Board of Equalization (BOE) and reassign its responsibilities to other state tax agencies effective January 1, 2026.
The BOE is a constitutionally established elected body that has served the people of California for more than 140 years. The BOE plays a critical role in the oversight of the state’s property tax system, which is one of the largest revenue sources in the state.
The BOE is composed of five members: four members, who are each elected by voters within one of the state’s four equalization districts, and the state controller, who is elected by voters in a statewide election. As an elected body, the BOE is directly responsible to the people of California. Under ACA 11, the BOE’s responsibilities would be transferred to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the Office of Tax Appeals (OTA), which are controlled by political appointees. As a result, concerns have been raised that such a transfer of duties could reduce transparency, accountability, and fairness in California’s property tax system.
Among other duties, the BOE is responsible for ensuring property tax assessment practices are fair, efficient, and uniform across the state. Although property taxes are primarily administered by the local assessor in each of California’s 58 counties, the BOE promulgates rules and regulations to govern that system. The BOE also proffers guidance in the form of Assessors’ Handbooks, annotations, letters to assessors, and advisory opinions, all of which serve to promote uniformity and educate local assessors and the public on the principles of property tax assessment. The BOE often develops such guidance in conjunction with representatives from local governments and taxpayers and holds monthly public meetings to allow interested parties the opportunity to voice their opinions in these matters.
In addition, the elected BOE routinely audits the 58 county assessors to ensure local practices comply with statutory and regulatory provisions. The BOE publicly publishes those audit results, and county assessors are required to respond and correct practices that do not comply with the law. This independent review of taxing authorities is one of the critical “checks and balances” the BOE provides to protect taxpayers.
The BOE is also responsible for valuing certain types of property that commonly span multiple counties, including public utilities and railroads, for allocating that value between the counties in a fair and consistent manner, and for hearing appeals on such valuations.
ACA 11 comes six years after a major restructuring of the BOE following a string of controversies, when the California legislature transferred many of the BOE’s duties not named in the state constitution to the CDTFA and the OTA. Since its restructuring, the BOE has worked to improve ethics, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.
Because the BOE’s remaining duties are constitutionally enshrined, a constitutional amendment is necessary to revoke them. Lawmakers introduced measures similar to ACA 11 four years ago, but those measures did not advance to a legislative vote. As a proposed constitutional amendment, to be placed on a statewide ballot ACA 11 will need at least a two-thirds vote in each house of California’s legislature. If ACA 11 passes in both houses, it is widely expected to be placed on the November 2024 ballot and could be approved by a simple majority of Californian voters.