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New State Fees May Be Challenged

Sacramento, CA– Californians will pay $12 more a year to register their vehicles, and millions of property owners who live outside cities will pay $150 annually for state fire protection.


That is the result of two new fees imposed by lawmakers as part of the recently passed state budget.

The Associated Press reports that the moves however could face legal challenges from opponents who argue the fees are taxes in disguise.


Democrats who control the Legislature approved the fees without Republican support. By law, the Legislature cannot pass new taxes without a two-thirds vote, which requires approval from at least some Republican lawmakers.


But Democrats believe the vehicle and firefighting fees fall into a legal loophole by paying for services, and as a result can be passed with a simple majority under Proposition 26 approved by voters in November.


The $12 vehicle fee will go to the Department of Motor Vehicles for its administrative costs and will free a projected $300 million that in turn will go to local governments that will take over responsibility for tens of thousands of lower-level criminals.


The $150 fire fee will be imposed on more than 846,000 homes in 31 million rural acres covered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It would raise an estimated $50 million the first year, and ultimately $200 million annually, to prevent and fight fires in the vast area that covers about one-third of the state.


The non-partisan Office of Legislative Counsel ruled that both fees can be imposed without a two-thirds vote under Proposition 26 to directly pay for specific state services, said state Senator Mark Leno, who chairs the Senate budget committee.


Written by tina.falco@mlode.com