Officials Criticize Board of Equalization Member for Working Against Rural Fire Fee
The Board of Equalization is responsible for collecting the $150 rural fire fee that critics have deemed unfair taxation, as many already pay local taxes for fire services in rural counties across the state. Notably, one of the strongest opponents of the fire fee is Republican Board of Equalization member George Runner, who believes the fee is unconstitutional and supports a legal challenge to repeal it. Several state leaders aren’t too pleased that Runner is actively working to undermine the fee while serving on the board, as he is behind a website that encourages residents in State Responsibility Areas to appeal the fee. State Controller John Chiang, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and fellow Board of Equalization member Betty Yee say Runner has crossed the line and that his role on the BOE has to take precedence.
Runner disagrees and counters that he is more than capable of fulfilling his BOE duties while opposing the fee on the side. He is working with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to arrange plaintiffs for a lawsuit against the fee. While Runner has been criticized for his efforts, the Daily Press reports that “California Common Cause lobbyist Phillip Ung and Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, both said Runner is within his rights as an elected official in opposing the fee.”
We’ve relayed previously that Runner also angered state fire officials when – at his urging -- advanced notices were sent to owners about the fee but the notices displayed a firefighter battling flames even though revenue from the fee is supposed to only go toward prevention, not suppression. The notices also invited recipients to “protest” their bills.