By Kevin Yamamura
An effort to repeal a new fire charge on rural homeowners has fallen short, according to Sen. Ted Gaines, who was gathering signatures for a referendum.
Gaines had to collect 504,760 signatures by Thursday to place a measure on the ballot that would ask voters to block the new fee. Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers enacted Assembly Bill X1 29 in June to raise an estimated $50 million from rural residents in an effort to balance the state budget.
The state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection approved a $90 charge in August and offered significant reductions for those who already live in a fire district.
The board-approved fee would raise a fraction of the $50 million sought by state leaders. Brown asked the Legislature last month for a higher fee of $175 plus acreage charges, but lawmakers in both parties rejected the revised plan.
Gaines said his signature-gathering drive was grassroots and lacked the financial heft generally needed to qualify ballot initiatives. "We're not going to have the signatures to put this on the ballot but we'll continue to fight with an effort to repeal this in the Legislature."