ACWA Advocates for Balanced Alternative to Drinking Water Tax During Emotional Budget Subcommittee Hearings at the Capitol

  • by Emily Allshouse
  • Mar 16, 2018
  • Water News

This week during budget subcommittee hearings in the Assembly and Senate, ACWA and several member agencies testified in opposition to the drinking water tax proposed in the Brown Administration’s budget trailer bill related to safe drinking water, and instead strongly advocated for ACWA’s alternative funding proposal which would meet the goal of the proposed legislation without a tax on drinking water.

Wednesday’s budget hearing included lengthy and emotional public testimony in support of the tax by dozens of men, women and children from disadvantaged communities that lack safe drinking water. ACWA’s testimony at both hearings emphasized the water community’s dedication to advancing solutions to this real and serious problem, while standing firmly in opposition to an impractical and unnecessary tax on drinking water.

Assembly Hearing – Wednesday, March 14

Cautioning attendees that the day’s agenda was “packed,” Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation Chair Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) began Wednesday’s hearing with an initial announcement that he would limit public testimony to name, organization and position.

After working through 11 other issues on its agenda, the budget trailer bill proposal was taken up last by the committee. ACWA Director of State Legislative Relations Wendy Ridderbusch provided the lead opposition testimony during public comment.

“We support a credible and equitable funding mix – an alternative – that includes ongoing federal safe drinking water state revolving fund dollars, reliable general obligation water bond money, focused nitrate assessments and the state’s general fund to create a funding source, for instance a protected and secured endowment fund, to pay for operation and maintenance costs,” said Ridderbusch. “We feel that we need this balanced funding portfolio package to ensure that there is safe and affordable drinking water in the communities that don’t have access to it.”

“Why can’t we work together? Why can’t we try something different?” she added.

Representatives from ACWA member agencies and associates also testified in opposition to a drinking water tax and in support of ACWA’s alternative funding proposal during public comment. Those agencies included: California Municipal Utilities Association, Irvine Ranch Water District, South Tahoe Public Utility District, Carmichael Water District, Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District, City of Santa Rosa, City of Burbank, Camrosa Water District, Yuba County Water Agency, East Valley Water District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, City of Fresno, United Conservation Water District, Zone 7 Water, Westlands Water District, Mojave Water District, Western Municipal Water District, Alameda County Water District, Eastern Municipal Water District, Mesa Water District, Santa Margarita Water District, Helix Water District, San Diego County Water Authority, Regional Water Authority, Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, Municipal Water District of Orange County, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, City of Watsonville, and Otay Water District.

Opposition to the drinking water tax was also expressed by the League of California Cities, California Special Districts Association, and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, among several others.

Those testifying in support of the proposed tax on drinking water included: Community Water Center, Western Growers, Environmental Defense Fund, Water Foundation and approximately 50 residents from disadvantaged communities that lack safe drinking water.

“Support this bill, or drink our water,” they implored the subcommittee.

After hearing all testimony, the subcommittee opted to hold the item open to allow further consideration of the issues involved before making a decision. Additionally, to inform the subcommittee’s deliberations, Bloom asked State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus to respond to opposition concerns that were raised during the hearing in a letter addressed to the subcommittee.

Senate Hearing – Thursday, March 15

Just as it had been the day before in the Assembly, the budget trailer bill was the last item on the agenda for the Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation hearing. Interestingly, in discussing earlier agenda items, subcommittee members debated the merits of using the state’s general fund versus special funds for issues of statewide importance. During that debate subcommittee Chair Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) appeared to be supportive of some uses of the general fund under this heading.

Ed Manning, who represents Mojave Water District, Westlands Water District, and Western Municipal Water District, kicked off public comments with a reminder to the subcommittee that the drinking water tax proposal before them has not received any review by a legislative policy committee. He also expressed his concerns with using the budget trailer bill process to vet high-priority, substantive policy issues rather than a transparent legislative policy committee process.

Ridderbusch then testified on behalf of ACWA continuing to deliver key messages regarding opposition to a drinking water tax and specifically highlighting recent ACWA-sponsored polling that shows that 74% of Californians believe the state should using existing funds for safe drinking water. Additionally, the polling shows that Californians believe it is not appropriate to tax a resource that is essential to life. She also expressed concerns over the precedent of the tax.

“It’s not just going to be a dollar a month, like we’ve heard…” Ridderbusch said regarding the tax, noting that there are other parties vying for funds from a tax on water for many other purposes.

Following Ridderbusch’s testimony many of the same ACWA member agencies and associates testified in alignment with ACWA’s position. Orange County Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Long Beach Water also weighed in to oppose a tax on drinking water.

Additionally, several other groups expressed opposition to the agricultural enforcement relief provisions included in the bill, citing inconsistency with the “polluter pays” principle, which was noted by the subcommittee.

Those testifying in support included many of the same organizations from the previous day’s hearing in the Assembly but also several other organizations such as the Rural County Representatives of California, Public Health Advocates, and the American Heart Association, among others.

Throughout the discussion on the budget trailer bill, members of the subcommittee asked thought-provoking questions and voiced points consistent with ACWA’s arguments.

Specifically, Wieckowski noted the problematic approach of requiring water districts to collect a tax on water with an exemption for those with income equal to or less than 200% of the federal poverty level when agencies have no mechanism to verify that information. Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) expressed concerns regarding the nexus of the tax, asking if his constituents in Los Angeles could expect their safe drinking water needs to be addressed with the funding mechanism. At the conclusion of the hearing, Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) reiterated earlier concerns related to using the budget trailer bill process rather than the policy committee process to vet such an important policy.

After hearing all testimony, the subcommittee opted to hold the item open to allow further consideration of the issues involved before making a decision. 

Next Steps

ACWA is extremely thankful for the engagement of the many ACWA member agencies and associates that testified in opposition to a tax on drinking water during these hearings.  Because the budget trailer bill was left open in both the Assembly and Senate, both budget subcommittees can choose to take up the bill at any time, without further public input.  ACWA will carefully monitor the activity of these subcommittees.

Additionally, ACWA members also should be aware that while SB 623 (Monning, 2017) could be moved from the Assembly Rules Committee at any time, action on SB 623 is not expected while the budget trailer bill is pending.

ACWA will keep members informed on critical developments as the budget trailer bill process advances, and if SB 623 is moved.

ACWA continues to lead a team of advocates that is lobbying the coalition’s oppose-unless-amended position at the Assembly and the Senate.

Questions

For questions regarding the budget trailer bill or ACWA’s advocacy on the bill, please contact ACWA Deputy Executive Director for Government Relations Cindy Tuck or ACWA Director of State Legislative Relations Wendy Ridderbusch. Both can be reached at (916) 441-4545.

Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
ACWA 101 Video

Learn more about ACWA member benefits and services including advocacy, resources, educational content, committees, region boards and more.

Coalition Letters: Investment in Aging Infrastructure

To: President-elect Joe Biden and Congressional Leadership Subject: Investment in Western Water Aging Infrastructure Letter excerpt: As you consider further […]

Comment Letter: Salinity Control Program Final Environmental Impact Statement

Agency: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Subject: Comments on the Paradox Valley Unit of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program […]

Federal Regulatory Issues Chart

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comment Letter: Draft White Paper Discussion On Risk Assessment 2.0

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: ACWA and CMUA Comments regarding Draft White Paper Discussion On: Recommendations for Risk Assessment […]

Comment Letter: COVID-19 Vaccines

Agency: California Department of Public Health Subject:COVID-19 Vaccines: Recommend Inclusion of Essential Water and Wastewater Workers in Phase 1b of Vaccine […]

Comment Letter: Cost Methodology For Public Water Systems and Domestic Wells

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: ACWA and CMUA Comments regarding Draft White Paper Discussion On: Long Term Solutions Cost […]

Comment Letter: Draft SB 100 Report

To: Interagency Principles of the SB 100 Report Subject: Association of California Water Agencies’ Comments on Draft SB 100 Report Letter […]

2021 ACWA Scholarship Toolkit

To assist  members in promoting available ACWA scholarship opportunities, the association has updated its Scholarship Toolkit for the 2021-’22 academic […]

Coalition Letter: Prop 68 Funding for Implementation of Voluntary Agreements

Agency: California Natural Resources Agency Subject: Proposition 68 Funding for Implementation of Voluntary Agreements Letter excerpt: Since January 2019, the Newsom Administration […]

Comment Letter: Yuba River Development Project Certification

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comments – Limited Order for Yuba River Development Project Certification Letter excerpt: The […]

Coalition Letter: Request to Advance Wildfire Legislation

To: Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy Subject: Coalition Request to Advance Wildfire Legislation Letter excerpt: […]

Coalition Letter: Advance Clean Fleets Workshop

Agency: California Air Resources Board Subject: Coalition Comments on the September 18, 2020 Advanced Clean Fleets Workshop Letter excerpt: The signatories […]

2020 Summary of Legislation

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
EVMWD Receives $8.9 Million Grant Towards Expansion of Regional Facility

LAKE ELSINORE – Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District (EVMWD) has received an $8.9 million grant from the United States Bureau […]

EPA Decides to Regulate PFOA and PFOS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Jan. 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final regulatory determination to set a […]

Western receives highest distinction in government information technology

RIVERSIDE – Western Municipal Water District (Western) was presented with the prestigious Excellence in Information Technology (IT) Practices Award by […]

State Water Board Staff Present Results of Survey on COVID-19 Financial Impacts

State Water Resources Control Board staff on Tuesday presented the results of two statewide surveys on the COVID-19 financial impacts […]

California Water Commission Accepting Info For Water Storage Projects

SACRAMENTO – The California Water Commission (Commission) is accepting screening information for water storage projects that provide Proposition 1, Chapter […]

U.S. EPA Selects Rancho Water To Continue in WIFIA Funding Selection Process

TEMECULA –  January 18, 2021 – Rancho California Water District’s (Rancho Water/District) Vail Dam Seismic and Hydrologic Remediation Project (Project) […]

ACWA News Available for Jan. 15, 2021

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Rowland Water District mourns the passing of Board of Directors President Rios

ROWLAND HEIGHTS – Rowland Water District is saddened to announce the passing of Board of Directors President Teresa P. Rios […]

Federal Lead and Copper Rule Effective March 16

The recently finalized federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) will officially go into effect on March 16. The Environmental Protection […]

Gearing up For Long-Term Water Use Efficiency

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that ACWA member agencies are highly skilled at delivering essential services to their […]

Randall Reed Selected to Lead CVWD as Board President

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — On January 12, 2021, the Cucamonga Valley Water District (CVWD/District) Board of Directors selected Randall James Reed […]

San Juan Water District’s New Approach to Rate Increase Outreach

San Juan Water District conducted significant community outreach to educate and inform customers about a proposed five-year retail rate increase. […]

IEUA Invited to Apply for $94 Million WIFIA Loan from the U.S. EPA

INLAND EMPIRE – The Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA/Agency) was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one […]

Phil Paule Selected as EMWD Board President

PERRIS  — Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) Board Director Phil Paule, who represents the Winchester, French Valley and the southwest […]

Western receives top recognition for water efficiency programs

RIVERSIDE – The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) recently announced that Western Municipal Water District (Western) is one of only […]