Recently the State Board of Equalization mailed out statements to rural property owners for a new law enacted last year. This new law, ABX1-29 (Fire Fees), is the result of legislation authored by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley). The Legislature has declared, without citing any studies or facts, that our existence here in the foothills of California has created an economic burden for the implementation of fire prevention activities.
The bulk of the "activities" cited in the text of their declaration are simply regulatory. In other words, they have created a law to charge us a fee so they may pay for their regulatory costs. It has nothing to do with actual fire fighting -- it is just another administrative expansion of our state government.
In reality, ABX1 29 is interpreted as differential taxation of personal property to provide specialized fire regulations.
Consistent with the California Constitution Article 13, Sec. 2, differential taxation of personal property can only be enacted with a 2/3 majority concurring vote from both houses. Since the voting results were in perfect alignment with party-lines, the Democrats were not able to achieve a 2/3 majority. In defiance of our constitution, our lawmakers decided to call it a "fee" and then passed it under protest of the minority lawmakers.
After Governor Brown promptly signed ABX1 29, he touted and emphasized that it is a "fee" created by a "budget trailer bill" made possible by the passage of Proposition 25 (the On-Time Budget Act of 2010). The "budget trailer bill" provision of Proposition 25 was created as a tool to allow legislators to make last minute budget changes with a "role-call vote."
Clearly the intent of Proposition 25 was to force the law makers of our state to do their job, not open the door to illegal taxation. If it is truly just a "fee," then we should be able to decline their offer for additional specialized fire regulations. But the language of this illegal legislation states that we must pay for their service or be fined and then ultimately, if not paid, a lien will be placed on our property.
Proposition 25 has specifically stated "This measure will not change Proposition 13's property tax limitations in any way. This measure will not change the two-thirds vote requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes." ABX1 29 is illegal any way you try to twist it.
In my opinion, the Legislature and the Governor have blatantly enacted an illegal tax. This "roll-call tax" vividly displays their arrogant attitude and disrespect for the people they were elected to serve.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a construction worker to figure out that in the real world, when your budget doesn't balance and you're spending more than you can even dream of earning, you trim your spending. Unless you are morally corrupt, mentally ill, or vacant of any personal pride you do not go out and rob a bank or commit an illegal act to balance your budget.
Will the majority of our political leadership in this state ever wake-up and join us in the real-world? Or will we, the people that placed them into their position to publicly serve us, relieve them of their duties by a mass statewide recall effort. We did it to Gray Davis, and we can do it again.
If left unchecked, this could easily become the beginning of progressive and incremental illegal taxation.
We should demand that our leaders focus on our best interests, not their own. leaders that will balance the state budget by reducing and down-sizing our redundantly obese five-hundred plus departments, agencies and commissions.
More than ever, our once great state desperately needs leaders that will respect our constitution and loosen the stranglehold of excessive regulation that is choking our economy, invading our privacy and stunting our quality of life.