‘Fire Tax’ Proposed

By Patric Hedlund

The news of a “fire tax” to be levied on rural homeowners to pay for firefighting expenses statewide is gaining attention from Sacramento to San Diego as we go to press. The level of the proposed fee bounced from $150 to $90, without California officials making a clear statement yet to the public.

“At this point, it is unknown what the State Responsibility Area (SRA) fire fee will be and how it will effect the citizens of Kern County or the Kern County Fire Department,” KCFD spokesperson Victor Cruz said Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Janet Upton, Deputy Director of Cal Fire, said in an interview Wednesday Aug. 24 that the emergency regulation was adopted by the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection on August 22, “good for 180 days.” She added, “There will be a lengthy public hearing process that follows this.” She also said there may be lawsuits looming.

Editorials against the measure are starting to blossom widely. The “protection fee” was authorized by state legislators as the ax was swinging on state budget measures in June.

The charges may appear in the mailboxes of Mountain Community homeowners as soon as this September. The revenue was intended to replace $50 million cut from state firefighting funds. Politicians who told voters they refused to extend existing tax programs to help cover the state deficit agreed to load “fees” onto rural homeowners instead. The Big Bear Grizzley points out, however, that as the authorizing law is currently written, the fees flow to local authorities for wildfire prevention education rather than to replace the $50 million cut from the California Fire Authorities’ budget.

The words “beware of unintended consequences” are core to the debate in San Bernardino County where the supervisors have adopted a resolution opposing the levy.

This is part of the August 26, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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