Story Appeared on: http://www.lucernevalleyleader.com/packed-house-listens-obernolte-fire-tax
By PETER DAY
The nearly 100 people who attended last Saturday’s “Fire Tax Town Hall” were mad as heck — but encouraged to pay their Fire Protection Fee anyway.
During an information-laden, hour-long talk — followed by a question and answer period — at the Lucerne Valley Senior Center, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte explained the hard, cold facts of the “Fire Prevention Fee.”
“I call it a tax because it is a tax,” Obernolte said. “The way to get more money is to charge people for paying for what they’re already getting.”
Obernolte explained that the state legislature needed at least a two-thirds vote in favor for the fee to be an actual tax. But since they couldn’t get a super majority (they only received an actual majority), they called it a fee.
Furthermore, he said, “I believe it’s blatantly unconstitutional.”
Obernolte is backing a lawsuit whose goal is to rule the law unconstitutional and ultimately get refunds for those who paid the fee and filed a formal protest.
“We expect a decision something this year,” he said. “We’re pretty confident it will be found unconsitutional and illegal.” However, getting refunds may not be so easy.
He suggested locals who must pay the fee do so but then separately mail the appropriate forms to a separate address to file a protest.
“I think the best thing to do is to file it under protest.”
According to Linda Gommel, the Lucerne Valley Market & Hardware Store has protest filing forms available for customers.
Obernolte, who formerly was mayor of Big Bear, said his office can help those on lower incomes to set up an extension payment plan with the Board of Equalization, which collects the fees.
“We can help you.”