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A group of Republican legislators announced this past Thursday the introduction of a measure, AB 1506, to repeal the recently-imposed fire tax. The measure is sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and has 2 principle co-authors, Assemblymembers Kristin Olsen and Jim Nielsen, and 24 other co-authors from both houses.
Assembly Bill 1506 (Jeffries) would reverse the Governor’s and legislative Democrats’ decision to raise $84 million in taxes on residents living in rural areas of the state as part of the 2011-12 budget. These communities are often in designated “State Responsibility Areas” and rely on state crews for fire prevention and protection, especially during peak wildfire seasons.
The group of Republican lawmakers argue that this tax is unfair to rural residents who already pay additional property taxes for fire protection. They contend that this tax was passed illegally and now many rural communities that rely on their local fire departments will see an increase in fire-protection costs while they receive a reduced level of service.
Furthermore, several local districts already charge residents fees for fire service beyond what is provided by CalFire. Republicans argued that with the $150 fire tax, property owners are essentially being asked to pay twice for the same service they have always received.
Without Assembly Bill 1506, Republicans pointed out that property owners will likely be billed $300 for fire service in the coming months - $150 for fiscal year 2011-12 and $150 for fiscal year 2012-13 – but will receive no additional benefits for these increased costs. Since the adoption of the tax in September 2011, its legality has come under increasing scrutiny. In 2010, voters passed Proposition 26, requiring the Legislature to approve any new fees by a two-thirds vote. The fire tax, however, was passed by a simple majority.
Currently, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is preparing to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality in court. Assembly Bill 1506 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources. The hearing date is pending.