Union Democrat staff

Fire fee outrage

To the Editor:

The Legislature has found a small enough group that is scattered enough so it will not affect their reelection. You may be sure that they will find other groups that are small enough and scattered enough to assess "fees" (read taxes) to increase the revenues that they can spend. You may be in the next group they identify for this fee. This tax was imposed by a bare majority of the Legislature rather than a two thirds majority as required by State law.

People who live in rural areas that are in the "State Responsibility Area" (SRA) for fire protection are being assessed a "Fire Prevention Fee" of $150 per year to fund the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) because the politicians in Sacramento have reduced the amount of our tax money that used to support Cal Fire. Now they want property owners in this SRA to pay an additional tax to make up for the money the politicians have spent elsewhere. Property owners that are already paying special taxes to their local fire protection services are not exempt. No matter how much you are already paying, they have provided a flat reduction in this tax of $35.

I know this is a tax because I am supposed to send the check to the State Board of Equalization, the tax collection agency for the State. If it was really a fee, why shouldn't I send the check to Cal Fire? Also, the instructions say that failure to send the tax money will result in a penalty of 10% plus interest as defined in the Revenue and Taxation Code section 55061.

Last, but not least, the tax was made permanent by a vote of the State Forestry Board, who were prohibited from doing this because the Legislature failed to pass a law permitting them to do this.

Alan O'Neill