Relief from Cal-Fire SRA Tax Sought by Senator Gaines
In my continued efforts to fight against the illegal fire tax, I have introduced three pieces of legislation this session that will provide relief for rural Californians forced to pay the fee.
This $150 fire tax is illegal and unfair - plain and simple. 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” (SRA) designated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), even though their property taxes already contribute to the service contracts that counties have with Cal Fire.
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 tax. 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 that has an income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines) from paying the $150 fire tax. Many Californians fall within this low and fixed income category.
This fire tax has been imposed on the owners of more than 800,000 properties in the state. According to census and Cal Fire data, my 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 Cal Fire has been accused of hiding millions in a secret fund. I hope my legislative colleagues realize that charging rural Californians a $150 illegal fire fee specifically to support Cal Fire operations, at the same time they are hiding millions provides enough justification to support these bills.
I would like to request that anyone who has suffered a serious financial hardship due to the $150 fire tax contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story and contact information. Your compelling stories could be used during committee hearings to make the case for why the bills should move forward.
Stay tuned for additional updates as the bills progress through the legislative process.