If a fee looks like a tax, walks like a tax, smells like a tax, and costs money like a tax, it really is a tax — no matter what our legislature calls it. This is precisely why this new fire prevention tax (let’s call it what it really is) runs counter to the state constitution requiring a two-thirds majority to pass. The prevailing theme in Sacramento seems to be, “How can we raise taxes without confronting that pesky constitutional two-thirds majority rule?” Simple, if the tax is re-named a “fee”, the very purpose of the two-thirds majority is circumvented.
This week, the state Board of Equalization is starting the process of sending out bills to more than 800,000 California residents requiring them to pay an additional $150 fire prevention “fee”. This “small fee” will raise approximately 85 million new tax dollars from taxpayers around the state. This fee is simply another sleight of hand gimmick to rename a tax as a “fee” so as to balance the state budget.
In California, in order to protect the citizens of this state, it is required that the legislature receive a two-thirds vote in order to increase taxes. However, politicians have gotten around this requirement by changing the title from tax and calling it a fee. Now all the Democrat leaders need is to obtain a simple majority and our constitutional protections are rendered meaningless.
What is the real reason behind this new tax? Governor Brown sought the tax to help close the state’s budget deficit last year and the Democrat controlled legislature agreed to this tax increase on rural Californians to begin in 2012. By taxing rural Californians for fire prevention services, the state legislature now has more money available to spend on other projects. Instead of cutting the budgets of unnecessary and wasteful spending, the Democrat controlled legislature decided that they would tax rural Californians for services their taxes were already paying for.
Think of it this way. Your favorite restaurant always provided free rolls to every guest when they purchased a meal. Now the restaurant wants to raise its prices on meals in order to pay for an elaborate new kitchen expansion, but decides instead of raising prices it will charge 50¢ per roll. To the consumer coming into the restaurant, the price of the meal has gone up because they are not receiving the free rolls with the purchase of their meal.
Some might say that it only affects 4,336 property owners in Contra Costa County and only 4,200 property owners in Alameda County. Why should the rest of us be concerned about such a small percentage of the total population? The simple answer is “who will be next” to fall prey to this creative definition of “fees”? Perhaps a “police protection fee” should be assessed upon all Californians who live in this state so that the money that is being used to pay police can be used to pay for the .
As long as “fees” can be substituted for taxes, the taxpayers will be hostage to politicians always looking to revenues rather than budgeting to solve our fiscal mess.
It is time to hold the Democrat controlled legislature accountable for their actions. We need to look at how our elected officials voted on these issues and we need to let them know that it is their responsibility to protect all taxpayers (Senate/Assembly). If we want to see California be great once again, then we need to have leaders who do not protect their own pet projects at the expense of rural Californians.