A fire tax bill is coming soon to a mailbox near you. It's not fair; it's not constitutional, but thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature, the bills are coming all the same.
Aug. 13, the state of California began mailing the first of more than
825,000 "Fire Prevention Fee" bills to Californians who own property
with a habitable structure in a State Responsibility Area (SRA)- those
31 million acres where CalFire has primary responsibility for fire
prevention and suppression.
doesn't matter whether you've invested time, sweat and money to meet
the state's ever-evolving fire standards. It doesn't matter whether you
experience any benefit from CalFire's prevention activities. It doesn't
even matter whether you already pay for local fire service - though if
you do, you'll get a $35 discount.
it or not, if you live in an SRA, the state is going to start billing
you $150 each year. And if you don't pay within 30 days, you'll face
steep penalties and interest.
bills are going out in alphabetical order by county between August and
early December. That means residents of Alameda, Alpine, Amador and
Butte counties will receive their bills in August. Residents of
Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo and Yuba counties most likely won't see theirs
for several months.
round of bills is expected to raise $84 million to help pay for the
state's operations last fiscal year. The next round of bills is just
around the corner - they'll be mailed beginning March 2013.
the photos of firefighters fighting fires. This new tax won't pay for
firefighters or put out a single fire. Nor will it do anything to expand
the state's fire prevention efforts. The dollars collected will simply
fund existing CalFire programs.
Supporters of the fire tax argue that folks who live in fire-prone areas should pay for increased state fire prevention costs.
if we funded other state programs similarly. The Legislature would then
require property owners in high-crime neighborhoods to pay a "crime
prevention tax" to fund the state's prisons and public safety programs.
After all, these high-crime neighborhoods produce more criminals.
I doubt urban politicians will extend the same logic to other state
programs - especially not if it means higher taxes for the urban areas
When it comes to the fire tax, there's no relationship between a taxpayer's burden and the benefits he or she will receive.
so, the governor and Legislature are still trying to pretend this new
tax is a fee. That's because the Legislature doesn't have constitutional
authority to raise taxes without a two-thirds vote. By pretending the
fire tax is a fee, the Democrat majority approved it on a simple
I intend to
join the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in suing to halt this
illegal money grab. But before a lawsuit can move forward, at least one
property owner must 1) receive a bill, 2) file a written appeal and 3)
have his or her appeal denied.
To help inform California taxpayers, I've established a website (calfirefee.com)
providing detailed information about the new fire tax. Visit this site
to find out if you live in an SRA and might soon receive a fire tax
bill. You can also find further details regarding the process, timeline
and grounds for filing an appeal.
needs a balanced budget, but we should not balance it on the backs of
already overtaxed Californians. As an elected taxpayer advocate, it is
my duty and privilege to work each and every day to protect taxpayers
from unfair and excessive taxation - including this new illegal fire