Two area lawmakers have recently introduced a bill to demand more accountability from the state on its State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fee, an annual payment required by affected residents that some have contended is an illegal tax.
Assembly Member Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) and Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) introduced AB 211 last month to require an annual report be submitted to the legislature, which itemizes each expenditure report on the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fee.
“The taxpayers in State Responsibility Areas have a right to know where their hard earned money is going,” Bigelow said in a release. “While I continue to oppose this tax on rural residents, these tax dollars are intended to be spent to mitigate the threat of catastrophic fire throughout California. There is no way to know if these dollars are being spent effectively, and it is the Legislature’s duty to ensure accountability.”
“Some of California’s most devastating fires have occurred right in my backyard since the state started collecting the State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Fee,” Berryhill said. “I opposed the fee when it was going through the Legislature but it unfortunately still exists. If taxpayers in SRA areas are forced to pay a fee for fire prevention, I want to ensure every nickel collected is used to protect them from catastrophic wildfires…not just swallowed up in the bureaucracy. AB 211 is one way to hold the state accountable.”
The State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention Fee became law in 2011. The fee is a $150 annual charge on each habitable structure on a parcel that is within a State Responsibility Area.
Currently, the annual report to the Legislature on vague expenditures has expired. AB 211 will ensure the Legislature receives an annual report indefinitely on the expenditures of the State Responsibility Fire Prevention Fee.
“Cal Fire firefighters have done a tremendous job on the front lines of our State’s most catastrophic fires. These brave men and women work tirelessly on a variety of important fire prevention services throughout California to reduce fire fuels that lessen risk of wildfire to communities and evacuation routes. To ensure these heroes have all the resources they need, it is imperative that this money is spent effectively and efficiently,” Bigelow added.
Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, is a lifelong rancher who represents the 5th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes all or parts of Placer, El Dorado, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and Mono counties.