STATE APPROVES FIRE PARCEL FEE ON RURAL PROPERTIES

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By Miriam Raftery

November 12, 2011 (Sacramento)—The California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has approved a $150 fire parcel fee on rural property owners. Those living in a fire district will receive a $35 discount, dropping the fee to $115. The state estimates that 90 percent of structures will quality for the savings.

That’s significantly more than rates originally approved by the Board in August, though less than the $175 that the Governor originally requested.

Governor Jerry Brown exercised gubernatorial muscle to push through the higher fees as a means of closing the state’s growing budget gap. After the board approved far lower fees than the Governor sought, he tried to persuade the Legislature to pass an even heftier $175 fee. But Democrats in rural areas joined Republicans in opposing that plan. So Brown replaced four members of the fire board to win approval for the $150 fees.

The fee will apply to an estimated 800,000 structures statewide, including homes and offices in state responsibility areas for fire protection. That includes unincorporated areas in East County.

The fees have been opposed by many rural residents, who say that they are not responsible for causing wildfires and are already paying for brush clearing and other fire prevention measures as well as higher insurance rates in fire-prone areas. Supervisor Dianne Jacob also opposes state fire parcel fees. Some fire districts also oppose them, fearing state fees would dissuade voters from approving local fire parcel taxes to fund individual districts.

The Governor has said the measure is necessary to adequately fund firefighting. This year, 72 Cal-Fire firefighter positions in San Diego have been cut. So the measure arguably could improve public safety and prevent more devastating wildfires.

The Board has not yet announced when it will begin collecting the new fees, though at latest fees must be collected before the fiscal year ends in June.

A group of fiscal conservatives have said they will challenge the fire fee in court as a tax which should have required a two-thirds votes of the Legislature, according to a McClatchy newspapers article on November 9 in the Bellingham Herald.  Democrats have contended the tax is a fee, which requires only a simple majority vote.  

Comments

Nothing to do with fire protection!

It's a real shame people are not up in arms about this phony fee that has absolutely nothing to do with fire protection.

Seems that governor Brown

Seems that governor Brown will continue the 'Terminator' tradition of: taxation without representation, added fees, etc. - while continuing to crush the poor and needy of California by reducing funding for seniors, lowering SSI payments, eliminating services and so much more. The tanking economy affects some of us in a Very dramatic way. If money is taken away from people and they have less to spend on consumer goods, does that not make the economic situation worse? Beating up the very people who make this country viable, is not the answer!

Good points, Wolfbane.

The drain on the state's coffers in the past few years has been huge.  The size of the budget overall has gone done by a huge sum, and spending has been slashed in many programs. I don't approve of the fire fee either. That said, Brown was between a rock and a hard place since Republicans in the Legislature refused to consider ANY form of revenue increases.  So Dems ran this one through (which may not pass constitutional muster).

 

Options that might be more palatable to the average person, such as a wellhead tax on oil, were blocked by Republicans.  California is the only oil producing state that does not tax oil at the wellhead. Even Sarah Palin's Alaska has a 25% wellhead oil tax.  If we had one, we wouldn't need to impose fire fees or slash social programs so deeply. That's just one of many ideas proposed that were rejected. Some wanted to raise "sin" taxes such as a nickel a glass hike on alcohol.  Others wanted to close loopholes for companies that offshore assets while dodging paying California taxes. I'm curious what readers think.  Would you have supported any of those alternatives?   If so, which ones? If not, how would you close the budget gap? What is left to cut that isn't hurting people?

 

We need to hear solutions that are reasonable meaning lawful -- it's a waste of time to rant about things we may not like, but that are mandated by the federal government, or that would take a constitutional amendment to change.  Meanwhile what actions that our state legislature could take now would you support?