Chesbro attempts to kill controversial SRA fee

Assemblymember Wes Chesbro has joined other Democrats in introducing a bill amendment that takes aim at the controversial State Responsibility Area (SRA) property tax fee.

Chesbro is the main sponsor of a proposed amendment to Assembly Bill 468. The amended version would repeal the SRA fee and create a statewide 4.8 percent surcharge on property insurance charges.

The SRA fee amounts to $150 a year per habitable structure and is charged to rural homeowners who live in SRAs covered by Calfire.

The SRA fee doesn’t fund fire protection services, however. It pays for fire prevention programs like brush clearing and forest thinning.

According to a press release from Chesbro’s office, the amended bill will “establish a new Disaster Management, Preparedness and Assistance Fund to provide funding for multiple state emergency response agencies” and strike the controversial SRA fee. Charged on a statewide basis, the new insurance policy surcharge will affect more property owners and deliver funding for CalFire, CalEMA and the state’s Military Department.

“The average residential surcharge would be about $48 per policy, which would generate an estimated $480 million per year for the Disaster Management Fund,” Chesbro said in the release. “Florida has a similar disaster fund surcharge on property insurance and twenty-one other states have some type of disaster fund.”

Chesbro also points out that the federal “sequestration standoff” has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of funding for CalEMA and the California Coast Guard.

“The loss of these federal funds makes this legislation more urgent,” he said. “California needs to be more proactive in planning and funding responses to natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, tsunamis and floods.”

The insurance policy surcharge would “ensure a stable source of funding for the sole purpose of planning and response to these disasters,” Chesbro continued.

At press time, a “special order of business” was called for the assembly’s Natural Resources Committee, which Chesbro chairs, to hear AB 468 and two other bills that propose repealing the SRA fee.

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