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Property Owners in Brush Communities: Hang on to Your Wallets.

According to the latest Insurance Journal article of 8/13/12, more fees are headed your way. This affects over 800,000 Californians who live in “rural areas” or“wildfire country”. 

Beginning this week, Homeowners and Property Owners are starting to receive bills for up to $150 each (and for each property) for alleged fire-fighting services.  On the surface, the program appears positive and proactive, and it may well be a great achievement and may reduce potential fire damage. Anyone who has had firemen battling flames at their property’s edge will not object too much.  However,the bigger issues seem to include . . .

·       The assessment has been deemed a fee and not a tax, so it was passed without proper legislative authority.  The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will file suit to oppose it.

·       Basically, you’ve been told by nameless faces (and some who you can name, like Gov Jerry Brown) that you – in the brush and rural areas – are a special class of people who need to pay more because of where you live.  You know, like the people in the less fortunate neighborhoods pay more for police protection.  Oops, wait – they don’t.  My bad.

·       Actually, there is one big face on this:  Governor Jerry Brown.  According to Don Thompson of the AP, the governor signed this decree to help close the state’s budget deficit,calling it “a fee consistent with the `beneficiary pays principle’ ”.

·       This program will interfere with other efforts of local communities to pass nominal “tax measures(see above on how to do it clandestinely, guys) to promote brush clearing and actually– in some communities cases – provide the brush clearing.    

·       This is supposed to help off-set cuts in Fire Department budgets statewide; haven’t we heard “that one” before?

Few people know this program is coming, as the fee-based assessment program has not been well publicized; you who are reading this report are among a very select few who now know about it.  But, the fee imposition news will be out there shortly. And, the assessments will start rolling out this week in alphabetical order (by city).  So, those of you with city names beginning with an “A” will be getting your report card early – with a bill of up to $150attached to it.

No one wants to say “no”to firefighting efforts and preventative measures where it can do good.   No one wants to see any air tankers grounded when a fire is going, unable to fly due to budget restraints.  And, while I seldom agree with anything Gov Brown does, I can’t dismiss his “beneficiary pays principle”.  I think that makes sense in many instances.  I prefer to call it the “you break it, you bought it principle”, but that does have a negativity attached toit that “beneficiary pays” does not have.  

My main gripe – aside from its constitutionality – on this is that the determination of the areas to be subject to Governor Brown’s principle – where it is sought and implemented –is selective and thus the exercise of this selectivity is an incorrect use of the powers of the state to tax – morally if not legally. 

You’d think that one positive of the Supreme Court’s decision in upholding Obamacare would be that legislators would at least drop the pretense of calling taxes, fees.  

Let’s just call it a tax and then battle it out.  Who is going to vote against a small tax increase for legitimate firefighting and emergency funding which, when spread out statewide, has an extremely small impact?  Better yet, just dump some of the existing,silly funding measures (to which legislators are so attached) and re-direct those funds– for fire fighting and prevention, where it matters – to the over800,000 Californians who already pay property taxes. 

It was just a thought.   


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