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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

James V. Lacy

Dana Point threatens foreclosures to collect Mello-Roos taxes

Dana Point’s recent actions threatening to foreclose on four homeowners at The Strands beach development for failure to pay Mello-Roos taxes was predicted. By me! And that prediction and my opposition to those taxes in the first place probably cost me re-election to Dana Point’s City Council in 2006.

Howard Jarvis once told me that Mello-Roos fees were nothing more than a fancy legislative trick to get around the taxpayer protections of Proposition 13. I had worked for Jarvis as a young staff member during the passage of Prop. 13, a campaign where the politicians and the wealthy establishment pulled out all the stops to defeat the property tax reduction measure that has protected California homeowners from high taxation since 1978. But when Prop. 13 passed, the establishment didn’t just roll over. They sued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And the Legislature started coming up with all sorts of cute illegalities to collect tax revenue otherwise lost. One of those cute deals was to start collecting “fees” rather than taxes. Another was to empower so-called “Mello-Roos” districts to collect money from homeowners right… Read More

James V. Lacy

I am not Jerry Brown’s love child

I had a chance to sit with Art Laffer, Sally Pipes and a few supporters of the Pacific Research Institute Wednesday after lunch and Art and I shared some “old times” from the 1978 Proposition 13 campaign, when he began a strong association with Howard Jarvis as a rising star in economics, and I was serving as Jarvis’ lowly but eager assistant, carrying his brief case from speech to speech. There was never much reading material in Jarvis’ briefcase, but Laffer offered that he really was a genius, a guy with guts and native intelligence who never gave up trying after several failures to reform California’s skyrocketing property taxes.

It is not confidential that right after Proposition 13 passed by a landslide in June, 1978, that Jerry Brown called Art Laffer and they spent several days together in conference about how to implement it and what to expect in the economy. It is also no secret that Jarvis and Laffer both subsequently endorsed Democrat Jerry Brown for Governor because of his pledge to fully implement the initiative, which he honestly did do. (Jarvis also endorsed the Republican candidate, but the commercial he cut for Brown was… Read More