They say nothing is certain in life but death and taxes — and nearly 11,000 residents of Plumas County and 1,550 residents of Sierra County could soon find a new bill lurking at the bottom of their mailboxes for the state responsibility area fire fee many state and county officials say is really a new tax. For some state residents who already pay fire protection fees, this could even be a double tax. Those who already pay fees to a fire protection district will receive a $35 “discount” from the state.
Believe it or not, as many as 825,000 state landowners may receive a fire fee/tax bill soon.
In their oxymoronic wisdom and an eye toward a new source of revenue, the California Legislature passed, and the governor signed, Assembly Bill 29X last year. The bill assesses a $150 “fire prevention fee” on each habitable structure — including mobile homes — on property within a state responsibility fire area. The California Board of Forestry adopted emergency regulations to establish the fee/tax. A private contractor will determine which landowners owe the fee and how much is due. The California Board of Equalization (BOE) will then collect the money. In his signing message, the governor wrote he hopes the legislation will generate $50 million this year and as much as $200 million in general fund savings in the future.
The website goldrushcam.com reported the Legislature approved $6.4 million in funding requested for the BOE to create the billing for and to oversee the collection of the fee. The bulk of the funding will be used to pay for 57 new two-year positions.
According to the bill, “individual owners of structures within state responsibility areas receive a disproportionately larger benefit from fire prevention activities than that realized by the state’s citizens generally. It is the intent of the legislature that the economic burden of fire prevention activities that are associated with structures in state responsibility areas shall be equitably distributed among the citizens of the state who generally benefit from those activities and those owners of structures in the state responsibility areas who receive a specific benefit other than that general benefit.”
Really? Unfortunately, not a single penny collected through this fee/tax will go to firefighting operations. All the money collected will go instead to fire prevention measures, which some interpret as simply helping CalFire balance its budget.
When the kettle boils over, residents should not direct their ire at any local county official or the local CalFire brass or firefighters. This scheme originated in Sacramento and is administered entirely by state bureaucrats. No one at the local level played any role in creating, assessing or collecting this fire fee/tax.
Several watchdog groups and government entities plan to file lawsuits over the fire fee/tax once state residents receive the bills.
Since the state Legislature and the governor apparently are unable to move a coherent thought from one ear to the other, we hope those opposing this fee/tax are successful.
The bright lights in Sacramento shouldn’t be allowed to balance CalFire’s budget by robbing the state’s rural landowners, such as those in Plumas County who will be forced to pay this ridiculous fire fee/tax.