June 21, 2011 (Sacramento) –The budget vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown this week included 19 bills cobbled together into the budget package. Among those was ABx 1 29, which sought to establish an annual $150 fee for homeowners to fund firefighting costs in areas under state (Cal-Fire) jurisdiction.
“Once again, members of California’s desperate legislature are unfairly targeting rural property owners to make up for the State’s inability to balance its budget and adequately fund fire protection,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said of the measure, which also drew strong opposition from rural residents.
She added, “The bill amounts to double taxation because these property owners are already paying for fire protection though their property taxes. Many residents are paying additional taxes to their local fire districts.”
She added that some rural residents are victims of the 2003 and 2007 fires , “so these folks would be getting burned twice.” The bill would not provide any additional services, Jacob noted, adding that it “fleeces rural property owners while allowing legislators to avoid prioritizing the state’s most basic responsibilities.”
Critics have contended that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of rural residents. Some have argued that if more money for fire protection is needed and can't be met through cutting other programs, the burden should be spead out equally among all Californians, or among those who can most afford it -- not shouldering rural residents with the full bill. Rural residents have noted that they are not the cause of recent wildfires and that they already pay high fire insurance rates for living in rural areas. Moreover, the 2007 wildfires burned many urban areas in San Diego and even threatened evacuations as far west as Solana Beach and other coastal communities.
The Democratic majority has contended that that fire parcel taxes were needed to assure adequate funding for fighting increasingly costly wildfires. In 2007, California spent over half a million dollars battling wildfires, an all-time record. Just one year later, in 2008, that record was shattered as wildfires forced the state to expend several hundred thousand dollars more. This year’s budget cuts have slashed manpower on Cal-Fire engines from four person crews to three.
Brown vetoed the budget, which he said relied on gimmicks to balance the state’s budget. For a list of other bills included in the vetoed budget, see http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/summerfest-2011.