Collection delays add fuel to rural fire fee debate
Mid-Valley state legislators said a delay in the collection of a statewide rural fire fee is further evidence the plan should be repealed by the governor.
"It's a perfect example of this thing going south," said Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Loma Rica. "A lot of people believe that this is an illegal fee."
Both Logue and state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, have been active in opposing the fee that includes Yuba County residents. Logue co-authored a bill in the Assembly to do away with the fee while Nielsen has done likewise in the Senate.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed suit claiming the fee is an illegal tax because it wasn't approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature.
"Time and time again, we see news reports of careless errors in the implementation and spending of this tax," Nielsen said in a statement. "It's time for the governor to do the right thing and repeal the fire tax."
The $150 annual fee was approved by the Legislature in 2011 to offset the costs of providing fire protection to people who live far from services. It affects more than 825,000 homeowners who were billed for the first time between August and December last year.
After the bills went out, the state received 87,000 petitions for reconsideration from homeowners who said they were billed erroneously, said spokesman Daniel Berlant.
Yuba County Supervisor Hal Stocker, whose district includes the foothills where the fees would be imposed, has also been outspoken against the state plan.
"It sounds like they have been inundated with complaints," he said. "I think they are in such a quandary now and have stirred the public up so much, they may back off."
Logue said he believes that many people are not sending in fees because they are awaiting the result of lawsuits challenging the legality of the fees.
"I wouldn't recommend doing that, but if people believe it is illegal or that they are already receiving service, I would encourage them to file an appeal," Logue said.
He said he believes the state knows the fee is illegal.
"I think they know they are in trouble," Logue said.
CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this story.