Concerned that officials are leaving millions of fire-prevention dollars unspent, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday that he will put off a Senate vote to confirm two appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Senate Rules Committee recommended the confirmations of forestry board members of Stuart L. Farber, Jr. of Redding and and Mary E. Rickert of Fall Rivers Mill. Brown appointed both in March 2013.
Steinberg, though, said the full Senate will not consider the appointments until the Brown administration provides more information about how it proposes to spend the money generated by a $150 fee on properties in 31 million acres of state responsibility area. The fee will raise an estimated $76 million in 2013-14, according to Brown's budget plan this month.
"I just don't want money sitting there when there's a lot of prevention to be had," said Steinberg, the chairman of the rules panel, pointing to the drought and worsening wildfire danger.
Governor's appointees must be confirmed within one year. Farber's 365th day is March 19 and Rickert's is March 20.
The fire-prevention fee has been controversial since it was included in the 2011-12 budget. Opponents have gone to court to overturn the charge, which they call an illegal tax.
"Are we going to be able to quantify what we get out of it?" state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, who voted against the legislation creating the fee in 2011, asked Wednesday. "How are we going to find out if this is helping or if this is hurting?"
PHOTO: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crews work to contain a wildfire that burned several acres of dense brush and threatened homes in Pollock Pines in Thursday May 15, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton