Jerome Horton Appointed to Tax BoardThe Governor has appointed former assembly member Jerome Horton as the first African American to the powerful board.By Yussuf J. SimmondsSentinel Assistant Managing EditorIn appointing Jerome Horton as the first African American on the state Board of Equalization (BOE), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has picked a man who has been serving his community and indeed the state in different capacities for most of his professional life. Not only has Horton been a former Inglewood city councilman and state assembly-member for the 51st district, he has also worked at the BOE as a supervisor and business tax advisor, making him uniquely qualified to handle the duties as the member for the 4th district of the California BOE.While at the BOE, Horton championed tax reform and authored legislation to protect civil service, workers' compensation, eight-hour days, dismissal of employees, discrimination protections, and established the State Employees Appreciation month. In addition, he also authored legislation increasing the collection of over one and one-half billion in outstanding taxes, eliminated unproductive tax credits, increased transparency in the appeal process, continued the tax evasion task force and established the Tobacco Tax Enforcement Unit that was-and still is-responsible for recapturing over $700 million in cigarette taxes and taking tons of illegal cigarettes off the street. Of his appointment, Horton has stated, "The Governor was very thoughtful and methodical during this process. I believe my extensive BOE experience, pro-taxpayer perspective-and the historical aspect of prospectively appointing the First African American in history to be appointed to this board has intrigued him."The BOE is the highest quasi-judiciary tax board in the state. It is the appellate body for the Franchise income, bank and corporate taxes; and it also administers key state revenue programs, including sales and use taxes, property taxes, special taxes and the tax appellate program. The BOE was created in 1879 by an amendment to the California Constitution to ensure that property tax assessments were uniform and equal across all counties in the state. It employs over 4,000 individuals in various professional and support positions and generates over $43 billion dollars a year for state programs. Concerning Horton's appointment, the Governor said, "Jerome Horton is a committed public servant with a solid record of protecting taxpayers and supporting tax policies that promote economic growth, which is exactly what California needs right now. I am confident that he will work with the rest of the Board to help rebuild our state's diverse economy by encouraging businesses to grow and stimulating job growth."Since there has never been an African American elected to this board, Horton's appointment will be historic. Former Speaker of the Assembly and mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown said of the appointment, "For African-Americans, Mr. Horton's appointment is a watershed change in California politics. He is the third statewide officer in California's history and the first in the last 30 years. The Governor should be applauded for not only appointing a democrat but an African-American democrat."In addition to his legislative record, Horton has also served as a Commissioner with the California Medical Assistance Commission, and a board member on the California Work Force Investment Board and Cultural Endowment Board. He is currently the President of Horton and Associates and serves as a Board Member on two non-profit organizations: Great Beginning for Black Babies and the United Job Creation Coalition. He added, "Since the news broke, I have received support from many of my past and present colleagues and I am humbled and thankful to the Governor for his faith in my abilities, trust in my experience, and willingness to give me a chance to make a difference." The President of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman, said "We applaud the governor for taking an action to bring diversity and experience to the BOE by appointing Mr. Horton, a 20-year BOE veteran. The National and State NAACP are committed to his confirmation and working with him to help stimulate job creation and economic growth in our communities." The Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, Assemblyman Saundra Swanson, on behalf of Horton's African American former colleagues, said, "The Governor has selected a qualified, experience and skilled democrat with impeccable Board of Equalization credentials and a stellar record of advocacy for civil and workers rights. We commend the Governor for his courage, and foresight in making this historical appointment and we look forward to Horton's confirmation and service to the people of California." Horton's experience and influence went beyond his colleagues in the public office. Many in the private sector see the appointment as a force for the ultimate good of the BOE. The president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), Carl Guardino, who represents companies including Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Hewlett-Packard and Wells Fargo Bank, commented, "Horton brings significant private and public sector experience along with the skills necessary to bring fairness and efficiency to California Tax Policy. Even though we do not always agree, he is always willing to give our position honest consideration." And the President of SEIU Local 1877, Mike Garcia, Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Worker Local 770, Rod Diamond, and the President of the Association of California State Supervisor Union, Olin King said," Horton is a warrior for working people. He has consistently exhibited the courage and conviction to protect working families, and has helped us time and again to negotiate livable salaries, and benefits for our members." "I believe in following the rule of law. When the Legislature sought to change the law I worked with the leadership to fairly address the concerns of those who oppose to elements of the law, Horton continued. "If I am blessed to be confirmed, I will insure that businesses pay their fair share, no more and no less. I will also do my best to protect staff and taxpayers from over-reaching, inequitable, and aggressive BOE policies," he concluded. The appointment has to be confirmed by the legislature before Horton officially takes office. His goals are to use his position to increase diversity in employment, expand educational and economic opportunities in state government, increase the prosecution of illegal businesses and contractors operating under the table in the underground economy; and to recapture billions in unreported and uncollected taxes. A family man, Horton resides with his wife and likes gardening, painting, and babysitting his new granddaughter.