Guest column: Illegal fire tax bills arriving now |

Guest column: Illegal fire tax bills arriving now

Despite my efforts to stop it by referendum and legislation, the illegal fire tax is being assessed on more than 825,000 rural Californians starting this month, including 51,897 in El Dorado County.

This so-called fee was passed in 2011 to extract up to $150 per habitable structure from property owners. The tax will not provide any more fire protection and will actually make it harder for local fire agencies to raise the money they need to keep people safe. It’s a lose-lose proposition for the people in my district and for anyone concerned with public safety and the rule of law.

This tax should have been subject to a 2/3 vote in the legislature just like every other tax, but the Democrats called it a fee to get around that requirement. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is planning to file a lawsuit disputing the fee’s legality and I hope it gets overturned as soon as possible.

Until that happens, though, the State Board of Equalization has already begun mailing the first bills for the new fire tax this month and hopes to have all bills sent by December. The BOE has also begun mailing an advance notice to the affected property owners to warn them that the bills are coming, and to provide them with a brochure explaining the “fee.”

No matter how many mailers or explanations or warnings any agency sends out, it doesn’t make this tax any more right or more legal. It was, is and always will be a shakedown of rural property owners that takes their money every single year but gives them zero in the way of additional fire protection.

Wildfires are currently raging out of control across the North State and they won’t be put out by the phantom protections promised in this bogus tax. We need more firefighters, bulldozers, trucks and the other equipment that does the hard work of fighting these wildfires and protecting us, our homes and our property. This tax leaves us no safer, only poorer and more skeptical than ever of a government that takes and spends taxpayer dollars with no regard to the law or to fairness.

I wanted to share with you several resources you can use to equip yourselves with information. Visit to see if you live in a State Responsibility Area and will be paying this tax. For questions regarding your bill, contact 888-310-6447. For more information about the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association efforts, visit

– Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento and Sierra counties.

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