In the next few weeks, 10,991 Plumas County residents will find a $150 bill in the mail from the state. The bill is actually an illegal tax to help pay for wildfire protection.
Legislators, citizens and taxpayers associations are speaking out against the illegal tax that will affect about 825,000 state residents. The fire prevention tax is meant to generate more than $85 million in revenue for the state to help pay for fire-prevention in State Areas of Responsibility (SRAs).
Aside from the fact that many residents who receive the bill already pay for fire protection, the new state fee is simply an unconstitutional tax. It’s a tax because many homeowners will not see a direct benefit from paying the bill.
The California Constitution requires two-thirds approval in both houses of the legislature for any new tax.
That never happened.
But the bill is on its way.
So what can we do? Many legislators, including U.S. Congressional candidate and former State Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) want us to protest the tax. LaMalfa and other legislators have joined with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to oppose collection, seek refunds and ultimately overturn the law in the courts.
We share that view and encourage residents to protest. But we have to do it quickly. Protests must be filed within 30 days of paying the fee. (The fee is actually $115 if a taxpayer’s structure is already in a local fire district).
The 30-day window to protest begins on the date the bill was mailed, not the date you receive it.
To protest, visit firetaxprotest.org, sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and follow the procedures for protesting the tax and how to file for a refund. Look for the specific form that must be filed within the 30 days. Residents without Internet access may call their elected representatives’ office for help.
Once CalFire has received a petition for a refund, it has 60 days to review it and issue a written decision. The decision, which will be provided in writing, will explain whether the fee is valid, should be modified or eliminated.
The bottom line is the state is asking us to make up the difference for budget cuts made to CalFire. The governor’s argument is that we should help pay for services we receive.
Using that logic, the state could charge a fee for just about any service it wanted. What’s next; a fee for police protection?
The fire fee should be ruled unconstitutional in a court of law and be overturned. But until that happens, the best thing we can do is continue to fight it. It’s our right.