Board of Equalization Member George Runner said in a July 31 e-mail to constituents that he plans to participate in a lawsuit challenging the state's new fire tax (described by proponents as a "fire prevention fee").
Mr. Runner wrote: "Last year the Legislature approved and the Governor signed a law requiring nearly a million rural Californians to pay a new annual tax of $150 for every habitable structure found on their property. About half of these taxpayers live in the district I represent. I've opposed this new tax from the beginning, because I believe it is unconstitutional. The Governor and Legislature simply called it a 'fee' to avoid the 2/3rds vote requirement designed to protect taxpayers. As soon as possible, I intend to join a lawsuit asking the courts to halt this illegal money-grab as soon as possible. Unfortunately, no one can file the lawsuit to stop the tax until after the bills go out."
In a subsequent message to constituents, Mr. Runner said the first fire tax bills are scheduled to be sent August 13, to specified property owners in Alameda County. "It's not fair, it's not constitutional, but thanks to Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature, fire tax bills are coming all the same," he said.
Mr. Runner also established a website. www.calfirefee.com, that provides background and news updates on the tax.
During a July 25 BOE meeting, BOE Vice Chair Michelle Steel also weighed in against the charge, calling it "an unconstitutional tax."
In a related story, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) is complaining about an advance notice the BOE is mailing to property owners who will be asked to pay the tax. The Riverside Press-Enterprise explained in an August 8 article: "For months, state fire officials preparing to impose a $150 fee on more than 800,000 rural homes have emphasized that the revenue would be spent only on fire-prevention programs. But fee 'advance notices' that started landing in mailboxes earlier this week picture a firefighter spraying water on burning brush – suppression, not prevention. The notices also invite recipients to 'protest' their bills, a provision not included in the 2011 budget package that authorized the fee or the subsequent regulations to carry out the controversial charge."
CalFire officials claim that they were never consulted on the notices' wording or imagery, but the BOE has indicated that its staff met with CalFire staff when preparing the notice.
August 10, 2012
© 2012 California Taxpayers Association. All Rights Reserved.