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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California state controller’s office says the scandal-plagued city of Bell has been overtaxing its local businesses and must refund more than $2.1 million.

State Controller John Chiang said Thursday that Bell has illegally increased its business license taxes by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years. He said more than 1,000 businesses in the small, working-class Los Angeles suburb have been affected.

Chiang says the city raised the business license tax illegally because residents were not given an opportunity to vote on the increases, as required by state law.

He estimates that more than $2.1 million was collected illegally and should be refunded.

Bell has become the focus of investigations after revelations of extraordinarily high salaries paid to officials.

© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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