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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rural Counties Testify in Support of Bill to Repeal Fire Fee


April 25, 2012 - Sacramento - Today, the Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC), with the help of its immediate past board chair, testified before two legislative committees, strongly voicing objections to imposing fees on structure owners in the State Responsibility Area (SRA).

RCRC immediate past chair and Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon testified on behalf of all California counties regarding SRA fees, also referred to as a ‘fire fee,’ in the State Assembly in two separate forums. First, AB 1506 (Jeffries), which would repeal AB 29X, was heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Dillon expressed her support of AB 1506, pointing out that the state will end up spending more and be liable for far more than an SRA fee will ever generate.

“The upfront costs of implementing the SRA fee are staggering -- $15.3 million dollars for a maximum possible collection of $84 million,” Dillon said. Spending that kind of money from the state General Fund to add 86 new positions at the Board of Equalization and Cal FIRE at a time when the state faces a multi-billion dollar hole doesn’t make fiscal sense,” she added.

As expected, the bill was forwarded to the Committee’s “suspense file,” a compilation of bills that have been deemed to add costs to the state.

The subject of SRA fees was also heard in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee, which deals with the Cal FIRE budget. Governor Brown’s Administration asked the Legislature to appropriate money for Cal FIRE to ramp-up SRA fees administration. Dillon again testified on behalf of RCRC, suggesting that the committee look at the broader, long-term view; questioning spending money the state doesn’t have; and pointing out that the SRA fee may be struck down in court. Assembly Members Rich Gordon (D-San Mateo) and Brian Jones (R-San Diego), members of the Budget Committee, questioned the Administration on the fee, including concerns of the potential increases in liability this fee may create for the state and regarding the effective loss of any return-to-source from the fee.

“Taking on added fiscal liability, double taxation of rural county residents, and receiving no added benefits or services doesn’t make any sense. For these reasons, RCRC’s 31 rural counties whole-heartedly support repealing AB 29x and funding Cal FIRE in a different manner.”

The Legislature enacted AB 29X as part of the 2011-12 state budget, which levies fees on structure owners living in the SRA. In January, the State Board of Forestry adopted emergency regulations to impose these fees on owners of “habitable structures,” with most owners paying $115 per structure. During the passage of AB 29X and at each opportunity before the Board of Forestry, RCRC expressed its opposition to these fees.

RCRC is an association of 31 rural counties that advocates before the Legislature, Congress, and other government agencies on behalf of rural issues. Headquartered in Sacramento, county supervisors comprise RCRC’s governing board. Please visit our website at http://www.rcrcnet.org/rcrc/ for more information.

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