SACRAMENTO – Residents of California who live in State Responsibility Areas (SRA), have been required for the past five years to pay an annual Fire Prevention Fee — which many consider an illegal tax — on each habitable structure.
Assembly Member Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals and Senator Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte have introduced AB 211 to require an annual report be submitted to the legislature, which itemizes each expenditure report on the SRA Fire Prevention Fee.
“The taxpayers in State Responsibility Areas have a right to know where their hard earned money is going,” says Assemblyman Bigelow. “While I continue to oppose this tax on rural residents, these tax dollars are intended to be spent to mitigate the threat of catastrophic fire throughout California. There is no way to know if these dollars are being spent effectively, and it is the Legislature’s duty to ensure accountability.”
“Some of California’s most devastating fires have occurred right in my backyard since the state started collecting the State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Fee,” says Senator Berryhill. “I opposed the fee when it was going through the Legislature but it unfortunately still exists. If taxpayers in SRA areas are forced to pay a fee for fire prevention, I want to ensure every nickel collected is used to protect them from catastrophic wildfires…not just swallowed up in the bureaucracy. AB 211 is one way to hold the state accountable.”
The State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fee became law in 2011. The fee is a $150 annual charge on each habitable structure on a parcel that is within a State Responsibility Area.
Currently, the annual report to the Legislature on vague expenditures has expired. AB 211 is meant to ensure the Legislature receives an annual report indefinitely on the expenditures of the State Responsibility Fire Prevention Fee.
“Cal Fire firefighters have done a tremendous job on the front lines of our State’s most catastrophic fires,” says Bigelow. “These brave men and women work tirelessly on a variety of important fire prevention services throughout California to reduce fire fuels that lessen risk of wildfire to communities and evacuation routes. To ensure these heroes have all the resources they need, it is imperative that this money is spent effectively and efficiently.”
Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to have the SRA fee struck down as an illegal tax, continues to work its way through the courts.
Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, is a lifelong rancher who represents the 5th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes all or parts of Placer, El Dorado, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and Mono counties. He has also served as a Paid Call Firefighter in Madera County for over four decades.
(SRA – The State Responsibility Area is the area where the State of California has the primary financial responsibility for the prevention and suppression of wildland fires.)