Even before regulations implementing the recently enacted state fire fee are implemented, state officials submitted proposed changes to ensure a higher fee.
Last week, state officials submitted the changes to the Legislature, which include raising the fee to $175 and setting the minimum fee level at $150. Revenue generated by the law would be eligible for fire protection uses, not limited to just fire prevention as the original legislation required.
Just two weeks ago, the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection adopted emergency regulations implementing the July law. The board set the 2011 fee at $90 and provided several possible ways to reduce the fee. If the property owner currently pays a fee to a local fire protection agency, such as Idyllwild Fire Protection District, the fee would be reduced by $45.
The proposed changes would allow for a $25 reduction for properties where the owner already pays a fee to a local fire districts.
The $175 fire fee would be for one structure and $25 for each additional structure on the property.
In addition, the proposal includes a $1 per acre fee, up to 100 acres, and declining levels, up to a maximum acreage fee of $3,000 for properties larger than 10,000 acres.
A bill adopting all of the governor’s recommendations was introduced into both the state Senate and the Assembly. Hearings scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6, had to be abruptly delayed because legislators realized the problems with and objections to the bill. New legislation must be approved by Friday, Sept. 9, when the Legislature adjourns for the rest of the year.
In addition, Lake Elsinore Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R) introduced a bill to repeal the fire fee in its entirety.
“Having served my community as a volunteer firefighter for three decades, fire protection and prevention are critically important to me, but the governor’s fire tax is both unfair and unnecessary for our state,” said Jeffries in his press release. “[My bill] will roll back the double taxation on homeowners and force the state to make honest spending choices with the dollars it does have.”
Republicans and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association objected to the passage of the original bill by only a majority vote. They argued that approval of a new tax requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate and Assembly.
The changes to the July law attempt to define the fee as a user fee for property owners in state responsibility areas (SRAs). The bill language states that they receive a disproportionate benefit from fire protection activities than other Californians.