Sacramento’s controversial “crash tax” was killed by the City Council, which voted 6-2 to repeal it Tuesday.
The fire cost recovery ordinance would have charged non-resident drivers for emergency responses to accidents in which they were at fault.
The ordinance was proposed by the Sacramento Fire Department last year in an effort to recover costs from people who don’t pay property taxes – a large portion of Fire Department funding. Fees would have ranged from $495 to more than $2,000, and estimates were that the city would receive about $300,000 annually.
Though the “crash tax” has been the subject of spirited debate and community outcry, it went down relatively quietly Tuesday night, with only Councilwoman Angelique Ashby speaking in favor of it.
“I would like to say that fire cost recovery was one funding mechanism that we could use to potentially keep fire stations open and firefighters available to residents,” she said.
Ashby acknowledged that brownouts are bad for everyone, but federal restrictions on some developments in Natomas that were built in a flood plain mean that homeowners there can lose their homes even if they aren’t fully destroyed because of building restrictions.
“If the insurance company decides that 50 percent or more of the home is damaged, we can’t issue a permit to them to rebuild,” she told The Sacramento Press Monday.
When called to a vote, only Mayor Kevin Johnson and Ashby voted against repealing the ordinance. Councilmen Kevin McCarty and Jay Schenirer, who both voted for the ordinance on Jan. 25, joined Council members Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Darrell Fong and Bonnie Pannell in opposing it. Councilman Steve Cohn, who has previously supported the ordinance, was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
None of the council members spoke publicly about the ordinance after the vote.
Nicole Mahrt, spokeswoman for the Association of California Insurance Companies, applauded the council’s decision to repeal the ordinance.
“I think it was a good move,” she said. “All the backlash from the creation of that crash tax made Sacramento look really unwelcoming to all the commuters who come into town.”
She added that the ordinance served as a “double tax” and that the fees charged by these types of ordinances are typically not covered by insurers.
“Sacramento joins several other cities including Roseville, Oceanside and Vista, which recently repealed their crash taxes,” she said.
Nobody was ever billed under the ordinance, since no contract with the third-party billing service Fire Recovery USA was ever approved.
Schenirer used the discussion of the proposed contract with Fire Recovery USA March 1 as an opportunity to reverse his previous “yes” vote and call for a repeal of the ordinance.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.