Martin Helmke, former longtime consultant to the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, passed away January 30 after a long battle with dementia.
Helmke (pictured at a CalTax open house in 2012) was remembered by friends and colleagues as a dedicated public servant who provided expert advice to lawmakers and gave generously of his time to help others understand the intricacies of tax issues.
“Martin earned the respect of taxpayers by providing thoughtful, intelligent analysis of every tax policy that came before the Legislature,” CalTax President Robert Gutierrez said. “Whether you agreed or disagreed with his conclusions, you knew they were honest presentations of the issues, backed by years of experience. CalTax had a great working relationship with Martin, and we valued his sense of humor and his passion for improving our state. After he retired from state service, he worked with CalTax for many years to continue producing his signature spreadsheets of tax-related legislation – a resource we still refer to when researching legislation. Martin was a giant in the tax policy arena, and he will be missed.”
Helmke worked for the Department of Finance before joining the Senate Office of Research in 1975. He worked on many tax issues in the research office, including the implementation of Proposition 13, and was chosen to serve as the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee’s top consultant in the 1980s – a position he held until retirement more than 20 years later.
On a website created to pay tribute to Helmke, members of the Capitol community from across the political spectrum praised him for his kindness and helpfulness to all parties, even those with whom he strongly disagreed on tax issues.
CalTax Chief Tax Consultant Dave Doerr, who served as the top consultant for the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee from 1962 through 1987 and worked closely with Helmke on many issues, recalled Helmke’s strong sense of humor.
“When we were writing the bill to implement Proposition 13, Martin suggested, as a gag, that we put a definition of ‘city clerk’ in the definition section even though there was no mention of city clerks in the statute,” Doerr said. “It was an inside joke and is still there, in Revenue and Taxation Code Section 95.”