I was sorry to get a press release from Senator Mike Morrell telling the press that his attempt to repeal the costly and controversial fire fee.
“The fire tax was enacted at a time when the budget situation was in worse shape than today in an attempt to shore up spending in other areas of government on the backs of rural Californians,” said Morrell. “Legislative leaders should recognize that we’re not past that situation and repeal it. I’m disappoint with today’s vote, but will continue fighting the fire tax and seek relief for property owners,” he said.
The fire prevention fee was enacted in 2011 by the governor and legislative Democrats who claimed that the state needed additional money for fire prevention in state Responsibility Areas. Morrell said the legislature enacted the fee through a majority vote, despite the fact that voter-approved taxpayer protections require a two-thirds vote for enactment. SB 198 would repeal what Morrell argued is an unfair and likely illegal tax.
Currently, affected property owners are being charged $152.33 annually for the fee. A fourth round of billing is now underway. Morrell noted that several local districts already charge residents fees for fire service beyond what is being provided by calFire. Property owners are effectively being taxed twice.
During his time in the State Assembly, Morrell introduced AB 124 in 2013 which would also have repealed the fire fee. it passed out of its first policy committee hearing, but was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
A class action lawsuit challenging the legality of the fire fee is also working its way through the courts. Morrell said the ultimate goal is to overturn it, with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association leading the effort.
To learn more about the status of the lawsuit visit http://www.FireTaxProtest.org.
* Senator Morrell represents the 23rd State Senate District, which covers portions of Riverside, San Bernrdino and Los Angeles counties. Included in his district are the mountain communities, from Crestline to Big Bear Lake.
The senator said that legislative Democrats on the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, by a vote of 2-7, killed the senate bill he had authored. This bill, if it passed, would have repealed the costly and controversial fire prevention fee, which is also known as the fire tax.