Fire fee town hall April 16, 2016

California State Senator Mike Morrell shows a draft of a list of expenditures associate with the Fire Prevention Fee. Morrell has authored legislation that requires more transparency with the fee.

State Senator Mike Morrell joined State Assemblyman Jay Obernolte in Big Bear City April 16 to share information on California’s Fire Prevention Fee. Morrell, as Obernolte, believes the fee is an illegal tax.

“The administrative state is out of control,” Morrell said. The bureaucracy of the state has expanded, and it takes a lot of money to feed that bureaucracy, he said. But the people aren’t getting the services they are paying for, Morrell said.

The rural communities in California are getting picked on, Morrell said, pointing to the fire fee as an example. Taxes require a two-thirds majority vote to be implemented. When the supporters of the fire tax couldn’t get the necessary support, they switched it to a fee to get it though, Morrell said. He said the fire fee’s so-called benefit was made up, and if the legislators can do it on the fire fee, they can do the same elsewhere to impose a “fee” that is actually a tax, Morrell said.

Morrell asked for an itemized accounting of where the fees collected are allocated, and it took his office six months to get the breakdown. Morrell said the list his office received really isn’t an itemized list, but items added to a spreadsheet of sorts.

Items on the list include $4.6 million to fund 32 positions for staff dealing with prescribed fires and fuel breaks, and  $2.8 million for Fire Control Peak Engine Company Education Hours. This is defined as public education about fire prevention requirements and legal responsibilities by engine companies.

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