Sen. Gaines proposes legislative relief from fire fee
In his continued efforts to fight the fire fee, Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) has introduced three pieces of legislation this session that will provide relief for rural Californians required to pay the fee.
“This $150 fire tax is illegal and unfair — plain and simple,” said Gaines. “My goal with these bills is to offer some hope and support to Californians who are still facing a 10 percent unemployment rate and struggling just to make ends meet.”
Senate Bill 17 would reverse the governor’s and legislative Democrats’ decision to raise $84 million in taxes by charging rural property owners a “fee” for fire prevention services as part of the 2011-12 budget.
These communities are located in “state responsibility areas” designated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire), even though owners’ property taxes already contribute to the service contracts that counties have with CalFire.
Senate Bill 125 would exempt a property owner of a structure that is located both within an SRA and within the boundaries of a local fire protection district from having to pay the $150 fee.
Many rural property owners already pay local fire agencies for protection so this legislation would eliminate the “double-taxation” scenario for those residents.
Senate Bill 147 would exempt any property owner located within an SRA who has an income of less than 200 percent of federal poverty level (as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines) from paying the $150 fire fee. Many Californians fall within this low-income category.
This fire fee has been imposed on the owners of more than 800,000 properties in the state. According to census and CalFire data, Gaines’ largely rural district includes nearly 25 percent or approximately 200,000 of the properties whose owners are subject to the fee.
“My legislation comes at a time when CalFire has been accused of stashing away millions in a secret fund,” said Gaines. “I hope my legislative colleagues realize that charging rural Californians a $150 illegal fire fee specifically to support CalFire operations, at the same time they are hiding millions, provides enough justification to support these bills.”
Sen. Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.