A bill introduced by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to allow cities and counties to charge citizens the actual cost of delivering services such as issuing fishing licenses, recording legal documents or collecting court-ordered restitution will go to the Assembly Local Government Committee on July 1.

The bill, SB 676, would eliminate or adjust state-set maximum fees for a variety of services, including the support of a minor placed in juvenile court custody, lien and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) filing fees.

“Many of the county fees set by the state don’t even cover the cost of providing the service,” Wolk said in a statement released when the bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee. “When that’s the case, counties have to draw from their general fund to make up the difference.”

“The cost of these services is supposed to be borne by those using them, but it ends up being subsidized by all taxpayers, including those who never use a particular service,” Wolk explained.

Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza said the impact to county budgets is “significant.”

A comprehensive two-year study by Yolo County looked at every fee covered by state statute and the actual cost to deliver those services. It found that some fees had not changed in two decades.

The bottom line showed that charging for the full-incurred costs of state-fee controlled services could raise an additional $500,000 in the county. Larger counties could see even more revenue.

Provenza said the bill would also increase local control. If local governments set the fees to fit the actual cost of delivering services in their municipality, then citizens will have better access to decision-makers if they think the fee is out of line.

“Fee decisions should be based on the actual cost of services, never more,” Provenza said.

Jean Kinney Hurst, a legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties, which supports the bill, called the legislation “appropriate policy.”

It is also supported by the California Public Defenders Association and the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

“It has a lot of support because it is not a tax,” Provenza said.

“We are cautiously optimistic the bill will pass,” said Cindy Tuttle, Yolo County interim intergovernmental representative.

JT Long can be reached at jtlongandco@gmail.com