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BOE Member George Runner

Government Stalling Tactics Slow Fire Tax Lawsuit

As Californians hope and pray for an end to California’s drought and dangerous fire conditions, I am thankful for the many brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight fires throughout our state.

We’re also reminded that not one dime of our state’s so-called “Fire Prevention Fee” has helped fund this year’s firefighting efforts.

Someday a court will strike down the unfair and, I believe, illegal fire tax enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2010.

But getting there is proving quite a challenge.

As you may recall, in 2012 the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), with my strong support, filed a class action lawsuit seeking to invalidate the so-called fee on the basis that it is really an illegally enacted tax.

Since then, California Department of Justice attorneys paid with your tax dollars have repeatedly sought to do everything in their power to slow the case down.

I’m told some of the state’s stalling tactics go far beyond what is typical of government attorneys involved in legal proceedings. These tactics include filing multiple demurrers aimed at blocking… Read More

Katy Grimes

Arena Derangement Syndrome Update: Whining About Legal Costs

The Sacramento arena deal has prompted questions over the lack of public debate about key details, dubious financial numbers from the city and the public subsidy the project requires. And, last-minute legislation last year by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is allowing the arena’s construction proceed without a credible environmental impact review.

Last week, the city of Sacramento announced it expects to spend up to $750,000 to defend a lawsuit related to the planned downtown arena. The lawsuit accuses city officials of making a secret deal to provide an extra $80 million of public money to help the investors’ group beef up its offer against a well-funded Seattle group that wanted to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle.

I have… Read More

Katy Grimes

Arena Derangement Syndrome update: Arena lawsuit nears deposition of city officials

Opponents of the push for a heavily subsidized downtown Sacramento basketball arena are closer to forcing key city insiders to tell what they know about how much taxpayers actually will have to pay for the project.

Last week,Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balononissued a tentative ruling in the lawsuit targeting the arena deal orchestrated by Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star. It supported petitioners’ requests that they be allowed to depose Sacramento Councilman Kevin McCarty and Sacramento Economic Development Director Jim Rhinehartabout undisclosed dealings between city officials and the new Kings ownership group to help it buy the team.

The Sacramento Investor Group,led by tech entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive,… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Taxpayers Speak Out Against Unjust Fire Tax

For the second time in as many years, the State of California is mailing hundreds of thousands of fire tax bills to rural Californians who live in the so-called State Responsibility Area. The bills are hitting mailboxes even as the class action lawsuit I’m backing has finally received a green light to move forward.

As Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association is fond of saying, “the wheels of justice grind slowly.” Although I believe the lawsuit against the fire tax will ultimately prevail, it appears the trial won’t be until next year at the earliest.

Delayed justice means that hundreds of thousands of rural Californians, whether they can afford it or not, must write another check for up to $150 per habitable structure to the State of California to pay this unfair and unjust tax.

Given the confusing and controversial nature of this tax, I’m sponsoring a series of regional telephone town hall meetings to give impacted taxpayers—many of whom are senior citizens living on fixed incomes in mobile homes—an opportunity to receive information and voice their questions and concerns. To date, more than 2000 taxpayers have participated.… Read More

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… Read More