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BOE Member George Runner

Fire Fee Lawsuit Served on State

Today the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association formally served the California State Board of Equalization, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Department of Justice with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “Fire Prevention Fee.”

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but I’m pleased that this vitally important lawsuit is moving forward. Recent revelations regarding the state’s misuse of fire fee dollars have only strengthened our case that the ‘fire fee’ is really an illegal tax.

I plan to formally join the lawsuit by filing an amicus brief on behalf of the California taxpayers I represent. I’ve opposed the fire fee both during my time in the Legislature and as an elected member of the State Board of Equalization. But I’ve also encouraged impacted Californians to pay it because it is current law.

So far most taxpayers are doing so. Between August and December last year, the state mailed more than 760,000 bills for fiscal year 2011-12. As of March 1, about 72% of bills have been paid in full and 6% paid in part, yielding $72 million in revenue to the state.

The State of California is currently gearing up to send a second round of bills to rural property owners for fiscal year 2012-13. An updated mailing schedule will soon be available at boe.ca.gov and calfirefee.com.

While a lawsuit is one way to stop this regressive and unconstitutional tax, an even better approach would be for the Legislature to simply repeal it. And they ought to do so before one more Californian is forced to forfeit one more dollar.

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