Sacramento, CA — Rural California gets burned again. That’s what Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) has to say about the failure of the Senate Natural Resources Committee to pass Senate Bill 17. Berryhill coauthored the bill to repeal the $150 Fire Fee. The annual fee was approved by the legislature in 2011 to offset the costs of providing fire service to people who live far from services.
Senator Berryhill says, “The legislature has turned its back on rural California again. 90% of the folks being asked to pay the fire fee already pay local taxes for fire services. Do homeowners in earthquake or flood areas pay additional fees? No. The legislature doesn’t ask people in high crime areas to pay extra for police service. This is bad precedent and an unfair tax on people living in forested areas. It should have been repealed.”
The measure failed by a vote of 4 to 3 with two members abstaining.
In March, the fee collection was put on hold so California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials can sort through the 87,000 complaints challenging its billing data. Also, The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the fee on the grounds it is really a tax that needed a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass. The Association says if the class action suit is successful, nearly 825,000 homeowners could be eligible for refunds.