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Rural Homeowners Fight Back Against Calif. Fire Prevention ‘Tax’

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BAKERSFIELD (CBS/AP) — A lawsuit seeking to overturn a new fire prevention fee for hundreds of thousands of rural California homeowners was expected to be filed Monday.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports the fee is projected to raise more than $80 million for fire prevention efforts in its first year.

An estimated 800,000 homeowners will each be asked to pay as much as $150 annually to fund firefighting efforts amid what Sacramento is calling an increased wildfire risk.

Homeowners who already pay a local tax for fire protection are eligible for a $35 discount.

The fee, passed by Democrats in the legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, is intended to raise an estimated $84 million in its first year for fire-prevention efforts.

Opponents including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plan to file a lawsuit claiming the fee declared unconstitutional because the fee is actually a tax and thus requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature — not the simple majority votes taken in the Assembly and Senate.

Residents in rural areas said the state fee is an unnecessary burden because they already pay for those services locally.

“I just think it’s another way so that they can fee us to death so that they can cover all the expenses,” said one woman.

The bills start going out Monday and will be imposed on those who own property within the 31 million rural acres covered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a responsibility area that includes about one-third of the state.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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