A bill to repeal California’s new fire prevention fee on rural homeowners within the State Responsibility Areas passed in the State Assembly Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support on Monday.
AB 1506, coauthored by Assemblymember Jim Nielsen, would eliminate the SRA fee of up to $150 per habitable structure adopted last year by the California Board of Forestry to raise an estimated $84 million to help fund Cal Fire. It will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“The passage of AB 1506 in the Natural Resources Committee is but a small step toward preventing this unjust tax from burdening rural Californians,” Nielsen said, adding “there is still a battle left to fight; the citizens have all the right to be outraged and I would urge them all to bring about a firestorm of opposition to this onerous tax.”
Several different groups and individuals supported AB 1506 at the hearing including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Regional Council of Rural Counties of which Trinity County is a member.
Some argued the fee won’t provide any additional benefits to those who have to pay it, many of whom already pay for fire service — it will merely pay for additional state employees to implement and collect it; and it is fundamentally an inequitable, unconstitutional tax passed without a two-thirds vote.
Committee Chairman Wes Chesbro championed the case for repeal and indicated plans to unveil alternative legislation to generate offsetting revenue for the state budget without the inequity of SRA fees on rural homeowners.
As the first round of bills for the fire fee are being prepared to go out to rural homeowners in June to cover the past fiscal year, a second round for next year could go out as soon as July or August, according to RCRC representatives battling to repeal the tax.
On a separate front, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has vowed to sue and could seek an injunction to halt fee collection until the litigation is settled.