California Can’t Build Office Towers, Either

As the already-crumbling new segment Oakland Bay Bridge nears its grand-reopening – a scant quarter-century after the existing span was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake – and doubts compound on the state’s ability to build a high speed rail system, an office tower in Sacramento stands as a cautionary warning of the state’s inability to build stuff right.

Plywood marks where windows have fallen out of the troubled BOE tower.

Plywood marks where windows have fallen out of the troubled BOE tower.

The 20-year-old, 500,000 square foot Board of Equalization Tower in Sacramento has corroding pipes, extensive mold problems, and windows that insist on falling out and crashing to the sidewalks below. The roof leaks and – only in California! – it recently suffered a bat infestation.

In 2012, a pane of glass fell out of the building as the State Board of Equalization was meeting to discuss their building’s many structural problems. It was not known if the pane that fell was an original one or one that was replaced in an earlier $15 million repair job. A subsequent $4 million repair job tried once again to repair the chronic problem, with less than stellar results.

The Sacramento Bee recently referred to the tower as “a multi-million dollar money pit” that the state is still paying for, as we California taxpayers are still paying off the bonds used to build it.

Not surprisingly to anyone who understands California’s aggressive tax policies, there’s one more problem: California needs so many tax collectors now that the the Board of Equalization has outgrown its headquarters. (“Board of Equalization” is the state’s clever disguise for its version of the IRS, as in the Progressive ideal of wealth transfer via taxes on the wealthy as a means of social equalization.)

With the tax collectors preparing to move to another location – hopefully something built by the private sector – a number of state agencies are nervously watching, dreading the possibility that they will be picked as the building’s new tenants.

How Stupid Is California?

CartoonFreeloadersDependTaxpayer“It’s the state! It’s always the state!” said my wife, choking back tears.

She was nearly 50 minutes into trying to pay a bill from the Board of Equalization (BOE), California’s tax collection agency. As business owners, we know BOE because we make our sales tax payments to them, but as homeowners, this was the first time we’d ever received a bill from them.

So what was this bill for? There was no indication anywhere on the bill what tax we were supposed to pay. We read the bill from top to bottom and there wasn’t a clue anywhere. So, my wife went on the BOE website and there she found multiple taxes to choose from – here’s the list:

So, which one among all these wonderful choices should she click on? She asked me – I happened to be home – and I mentioned that California had a new fire protection tax – number 11 on the list. If I hadn’t been home, and if I hadn’t read about the tax, I wouldn’t have been able to suggest that. And as it turned out, I was right.

When she clicked on that tax, though, BOE asked for her account number and :”notice number.” What the heck is a notice number? In any case, she went hunting for two numbers on the bill.   She found one, under the heading “In relpy refer to.” The number was hyphenated, 63-330XXX. She tried it for the account number.

Knowing the state’s computers usually don’t accept hyphens, she typed it in without the hyphen, and it worked. Most wouldn’t know this trick. Stupid state! Now, what about the notice number? Out of desperation, she tried the same number for both entries – something she’s never found on any other form – but with the hyphen, so it would be different. No dice – rejected!

This was when she broke down and cried, “It’s the state! It’s always the state!”

Without options, she typed the number in again without the hyphen. And for no logical reason whatsoever, it worked. Fifty minutes to pay the state a lousy $128.

What kind of state does stuff like that to its taxpayers? Are they incredibly stupid or incredibly cruel? Or both?

P.S.: She just told me when you go into the Employment Development Department website, the only option to click is “Make multiple payments.” So what if you just want to make one payment? She has the answer to this and every other dealing we have with the state: “You have to think stupid.” In California, nothing makes sense, so you can’t approach things sensibly.