USA — A decision by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Prevention to make permanent a new fire fee has Assemblyman Dan Logue hot under the collar.
“This fee is and always has been an illegal tax,” Logue, R-Loma Rica, said in a statement. “The board’s decision to make it permanent does not take away from the fact that this supposed fee was passed without the proper vote as required by the state Constitution.”
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the fee’s validity.
The fee, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2011, charges landowners under state fire protection up to $150 per habitable structure.
Those landowners in the state responsibility areas, who also pay fees to a fire district only pay $115.
“This decision just represents another knock against those Californians who choose to live in rural areas,” Logue added. “I sympathize with the tens of thousands of honest, hard-working households in my district who are already struggling and will no doubt struggle more with this additional burden placed upon them.”
An effort led by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, to repeal the fee died in the budget committee in September 2011.
Similarly, a bill that would have increased the fee to $175, also died without ever getting to a vote.
The fee is designed to pay for fire prevention efforts, and cannot be used to fight fires, such as those that ravaged the North State this past summer.
“This fee will fund a variety of important fire prevention services within the (state responsibility areas) including brush clearance around communities on public lands, along roadways and evacuation routes; and activities to improve forest health so the forest can better withstand wildfire,” the state reports.
However, proponents argue that if fire prevention efforts were in place, the cost of fighting those blazes may have been far less.
And while many in the North State believe the fee is illegal on face value, others could support the idea if they felt Northern California would be getting any of the benefits.
Glenn County, for example, had more than 300 property owners who received bills. San Diego County had more than 108,000 properties identified. Colusa County had 411 bills issued, while Tehama County had about 9,000.
In all, 800,000 property owners were billed. There is an appeal process.
The funds will be distributed, in part, through grants for specific projects. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.