Guest Editorial by Staci Heaton, Regulatory Affairs Advocate, Regional Council of Rural Counties
Information regarding California’s State Responsibility Area Fee or “Fire Tax” –
CalFIRE’s budget has a $50 million dollar hole, and state lawmakers are raiding the pockets of rural Californians to fill it.
In 2011, the state Legislature pushed through a budget bill that created a new fee on all homeowners living in the State Responsibility Area (SRA). This effort was done without any opportunity for public input and was quickly signed by Governor Jerry Brown and implemented by the Board of Forestry in January 2012.
If you live in the SRA, you could be getting a bill from the state for as much as $150 as early as August 2012!
Why the Fee is Unfair –
CalFIRE is a statewide agency serving the entire population of California. In fact, the agency’s most expensive activities occur in urban areas where residents won’t pay an additional penny into CalFIRE’s budget.
While the fee bill promised that monies would go back to SRA residents for CalFIRE prevention activities and grants to local fire prevention efforts, the state now admits that the fee will result in no grant money until at least 2017 because the funds will be eaten up by administrative costs at the state level.
The state can’t guarantee fee-payers will get any extra service for their money, especially in areas where fire prevention is done by local districts.
What YOU Can Do to Help Get the Fee Repealed –
Many consider the fee an illegal tax that state lawmakers, including the Governor, are using to make up for their own poor budget decisions. Rural county governments have been fighting the SRA fee every step of the way with the help of statewide organizations like the Regional Council of Rural Counties and the California State Association of Counties, but their efforts haven’t been enough to stop the unfair fee.
Citizens like you CAN make the difference! The state needs to find a fair way to fill CalFIRE’s budget hole, and not do it on the backs of rural Californians. Write Governor Brown and let him know that the SRA fee is unfair, and needs to be repealed! Send your letters to Governor Brown at:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
You can also e-mail the Governor here: http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php
Background information from the RCRC website: The Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC) was founded in 1972, and works with its member counties to advocate on behalf of rural issues at the state and federal levels. RCRC provides the rural county perspective on a myriad of issues such as land use, water and natural resources, housing, transportation, wildfire protection policies, and health and human services, among others during legislative and regulatory representation. The core of RCRC’s mission is to improve the ability of small, rural California county government to provide services by reducing the burden of state and federal mandates and promoting a greater understanding among policy makers about the unique challenges that face California’s small population counties.
The RCRC Board of Directors is comprised of a member of the Board of Supervisors from each of its thirty one-member counties. RCRC staff work in partnership with the Board of Directors to deliver a rural perspective when legislation and regulations are being formulated in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. Our efforts help enhance and protect the quality of life in California’s small and rural counties.
Visit their website at http://www.rcrcnet.org/rcrc/