California Governor to Propose New Fee to Fund Firefighters

SAN DIEGO --

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to propose a 1.25 percent levy on property insurance bills in the state of California for both residential and commercial properties, NBC 7/39 reported.

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The money would go to increases in state firefighting crews, helicopters, fire engines and satellite tracking equipment. The fee would be an average of about $10 per year per property owner and could raise more than $100 million.

That's music to the ears of San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

"The governor should be applauded for first recognizing the needs of San Diego County," said Jacob, who represents San Diego's East County. "My preference would be that it be out of the state budget of money that is already there. If that is not a possibility, the governor has come up with a creative way to find funding to do just that."

But taxpayers and homeowners are somewhat skeptical that the firefighters will actually see the money.

"You really don't know if this money is going to the firefighters," said Santee resident Aurea Carelli. "They're using them, I guess. That's the simplest way to put it. If I knew it was going directly to them, then I don't mind. You have to remember there is a big deficit in the state budget. How do I really know that is going to the firefighters? It can go somewhere else."

That is a key point echoed by Jacob.

"My preference would be that it be out of the state budget of money that is already there. If that is not a possibility, the governor has come up with a creative way to find funding to do just that. It should be on top of those monies that are allocated for fire fighting out of the state budget and make sure that they are not able to be touched in any other way for any other purpose," Jacob said.

Jacob also added that this is an issue that should be of statewide importance as the recent run of fires across the state affected everyone.

Other homeowners we spoke with agreed.

"San Diego has been hard hit in the last four years," said Elaine Wilson of Mission Hills. "So ten bucks a year, so what. Let's do it."

The governor plans to unveil his budget on Thursday.

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