Press Release

Public finance scholar George F. Break dead at 88

| 30 March 2009

George F. Break, an emeritus professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and an authority on public finance, died of heart failure at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley on March 13. He was 88.

George BreakGeorge Break
Break conducted influential empirical research on the effects of income taxation on work incentives, intergovernmental relations and tax reform in the United States and Canada.

He chaired UC Berkeley's Department of Economics from 1969 to 1973. Break also served on numerous campus advisory committees and in 1990 was honored with the Berkeley Citation, one of the campus's highest honors.

He was born June 10, 1920, in the city of London in Southwest Ontario, Canada. From 1942-1945, Break served in a meteorological office attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force and was a flying officer with its Meteorological Division in 1945. He married Helen Dean Schnacke on July 31, 1948.

Break went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics at UC Berkeley in 1951, and joined the economics department as an assistant professor the same year. Among his many students at UC Berkeley was Michael Boskin, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George H.W. Bush. Break retired from the faculty in 1990.

Of the 11 books authored by Break, the best known are "Public Finance" (1961), which he wrote with Earl Rolph, and "Federal Tax Reform: The Impossible Dream?" (1975), authored with Joseph Pechman, which served as a foundation for the U.S. Tax Reform Act of 1986. Break also wrote "Financing Government in a Federal System" (1980), edited two books and wrote 74 articles or book chapters.

He was president of the National Tax Association from 1982 to 1984, and was honored in 1996 with the association's Daniel M. Holland Medal for outstanding contributions to the study and practice of public finance. Break was a member of the American Economics Association, National Tax Association and Canadian Economics Association.

He was appointed by California Gov. George Deukmejian to the Tax Reform Advisory Commission, whose 1985 report suggested reducing corporate and individual income taxes and broadening the sales tax by including food, medical care and household utilities.

Break also assisted the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis, testified before congressional committees, consulted for various tax agencies within the United States and Canadian governments, and evaluated the tax systems of Greece and Jamaica.

Break was preceded in death by his wife, Helen, who died in 2007. He is survived by several nephews and nieces.

A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way in Berkeley. A George and Helen Break Memorial Fund for the UC Berkeley economics department has been established in Break's honor. Contributions to the fund can be made to the George and Helen Break Memorial Fund in care of UC Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, 2150 Shattuck Ave., Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94704. To make a donation by credit card, or for additional information, contact Melissa Waver at mwaver@berkeley.edu or at (510) 643-1113.