Lake Elsinore and Yucca Valley assemblymen are making last-ditch pitches, calling on the state Legislature to repeal a before lawmakers adjourn Aug. 31.
"Only seven days remain until the legislative session is over," Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, said in a statement. "We need to find a way to get rid of the Fire Tax. This tax is very real and will soon hit people in their pocketbook. Rural residents have received advanced notice informing them of this new tax, and we need to relieve them of this unnecessary burden."
"There is considerable controversy surrounding this fee (tax)," wrote Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore) in his latest newsletter to constituents. "I have authored legislation to repeal the fee (which failed), and have also supported the filing of a lawsuit challenging the legality of the fee itself. I believe it is double-taxation on residents of Riverside County, who already pay property taxes to the county, which in turn contracts with CAL FIRE for fire protection, and that the fee as written and implemented will do little to make anyone safer as not a single new firefighter will be added to a fire engine, nor will a single new fire truck, bulldozer, or helicopter be purchased as a result of this new fee."
Cook and Jeffries have been leading opponents of the fire tax, which was implemented as part of the Governor's budget.
Throughout the state, every building owner in a designated "State Responsibility Area" will be taxed $150 per building. The tax bills will soon begin arriving in mail boxes.
"I'm talking to anyone who will listen about repealing this tax," Cook said. "Rural residents have done a great job reaching out to the Governor's office and Legislative leaders to express their opposition to this tax. I encourage all opponents of this tax to keep up the pressure. It is having an effect here, and I remain hopeful."
Although Jeffries disagrees with the tax, he is encouraging his constituents to pay the fee.
"Even if you share my opinion that this tax was illegally passed, you must comply with the law until such time as it is over-turned by the courts (likely led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association). If it is indeed declared illegal, there will presumably be refunds issued," Jeffries wrote.
In the meantime, Jeffries expressed concerned that the fire tax bills will contain inaccuracies.
"I recommend you look at your bill closely and be sure that you are being charged appropriately," Jeffries advised. "The tax is based on 'habitable structures' in the State Responsibility Area, and this is where the most errors are likely to occur. Are you being charged for a garage? A shed? A barn? If so, you will need to appeal your assessment. If you are currently paying a local fire tax, you should be eligible for a discount on your new SRA tax, so be sure to check your bill for that as well."
If you want to see if you live in the new tax area, maps of SRA areas, information on appeals, and other details about the fee program can be found on the SRA Fee website.