San Diego

AG Becerra Backs Bill to Combat ‘Underground Economy'

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra backed a bill Friday that would allow a program that combats black market sales to expand to San Diego, Fresno and the Bay Area.  

Assembly Bill 1296 expands a 2014 pilot program, called the Tax Recovery in the Underground Economy (TRUE) Program, that joined several agencies to target those that sell goods on the underground market. 

Becerra said anywhere from $60 to $140 billion of business is generated annually on the underground market and $8.5 million in uncollected taxes go unrecovered.  

"There's a vast underground economy of businesses that are operating outside the law," Becerra said. "The need is especially acute here in San Diego and in the Bay Area because ports are hot spots for the movement of goods in the underground economy." 

The bill was introduced by California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and backed by the attorney general. 

The TRUE program joins the Department of Tax and Fee Administration, Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department, who work in conjunction with the International Revenue Service to combat illicit sales. 

Becerra claimed the bill would add no net cost to the taxpayers because it recovers unpaid taxes. 

The attorney general said he chose to announce his backing of the bill at the Port of San Diego because the port generates billions of dollars for the state economy.

Becerra also exposed a backlog in weapon confiscations in California. He said California is the only state in the nation with a law that allows law enforcement to confiscate guns from people who obtained them legally but have since lost their right to possess them, like convicted felons or people with certain mental health issues.

The Attorney General said the lists grows daily as people buy and sell weapons they shouldn't have.

"It's constant churning," Becerra said. "And it's very difficult with the small teams that we have to cover a state as big as California."

He said he would like to expand the teams to keep up with the growing list, and growing backlog, but admitted that hiring specialized agents to confiscate weapons is difficult because the work is dangerous and the pay isn't competitive with other law enforcement jobs.

Becerra says current agents are working overtime to try and erase the backlog.

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