ACWA Supports Safe Drinking Water Solutions, But Taxing Water is Not the RIGHT Approach

  • by Kathleen Tiegs and Brent Hastey
  • Aug 23, 2017
  • Voices on Water

Today, a legislative committee in Sacramento will consider a bill that would impose the first-ever statewide tax on Californians’ water. The bill, SB 623 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), addresses the very serious problem of ensuring safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities.  ACWA’s Board of Directors and members have made it a high priority to support bond funds and other drinking water funding to address this serious social and public health issue, but SB 623 which would impose a new tax on water is not the right approach. ACWA is actively opposing this bill.

ACWA and its members strongly support the goal of ensuring disadvantaged communities have access to safe drinking water. ACWA has been working to develop effective solutions and advance sensible funding strategies. We understand that without water for drinking, cooking and bathing, people’s lives hang in the balance. That is exactly why it is so important to find the RIGHT solution.

Although it is being called a “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fee,” make no mistake about it – this is a tax, not a fee. And what’s also troubling about the proposal is that its specifics weren’t released until the eleventh hour when lawmakers returned to Sacramento for the final weeks of session. The huge shift in public policy that this bill proposes deserves a full vetting in policy committees and beyond. The tax element in this bill has never been debated in a policy hearing.

ACWA opposes SB 623 for many reasons, not the least of which is that taxing Californians for something that is essential to life does not make sense and would work against water affordability. If passed, SB 623 opens the door to future taxes on water to solve other social issues, further eroding local affordability of water. Customers’ water bills could become vehicles for revenue streams for state-run programs. This bad policy would essentially turn hundreds of local water agencies into taxation entities that send money to Sacramento. SB 623 is just not sound policy.

There is a better solution. ACWA is working to advance an effective funding package that includes dollars from the state’s General Fund, ongoing funds from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and general obligation bond monies that have been approved by voters for the specific purpose of assisting disadvantaged communities. ACWA has been accused by SB 623 supporters of “stepping away from ag” but that is not the case. ACWA’s proposed funding package accommodates the “ag solution,” an assessment proposed by agriculture related to nitrates in groundwater.

We all want safe drinking water for every Californian, especially those living in disadvantaged communities. A lack of safe drinking water is a public health and social issue that will take focused leadership on the state level. SB 623 is not the answer.

ACWA will continue to fight for the right solution. Our state deserves it.

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