SB 623: News and Opinion Round Up by Emily Allshouse Aug 31, 2017 Water News ACWA has compiled the following clips covering SB 623 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), a bill aimed at funding safe drinking water solutions for disadvantaged communities. The bill was amended in the final weeks of session to include language establishing the state’s first tax on drinking water. Articles from Aug. 23- 31 include: “Viewpoint: New water tax wrong way to fund clean water for all“ Desert Sun Aug. 30, 2017 ACWA President Kathleen Tiegs and Vice President Brent Hastey provide the water community’s perspective on SB 623’s drinking water tax in this new Op-Ed from the Desert Sun. Key arguments against the tax include the fact that “imposing a regressive tax has a bigger impact on families just above low-income thresholds,” that the bill would “turn local water agencies into taxation entities that send money to Sacramento” and that the last-minute addition of the tax in the final weeks of the legislative session “prevented proper vetting before all applicable committees.” “Imposing a tax on water users not the solution: Letters” Daily Bulletin Aug. 30, 2017 Cucamonga Valley Water District’s Board Vice President Luis Cetina answers the Daily Bulletin’s “Question of the Week, Aug. 21,” which asks “Is safe drinking water fee all wet?” In his response he says in part: “Safe and reliable drinking water is critical to human life and no one in a state as affluent as California should go without safe and clean drinking water. The manner in which to address the issue, however, is in question… This is a public health and safety issue that needs to be addressed, but the state needs to look at other resources that are available to them, such as the state’s general fund, federal safe drinking water funds, and general obligation bonds.” “Wash our hands of the statewide water tax” The Acorn Aug. 30, 2017 This Op-Ed submitted to The Acorn by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors outlines the district’s opposition to the water tax. Among some of the key points, the district points out that SB 623’s “tax on businesses and those with larger connections would be substantially higher, up to $10 per month” and that “… unelected state officials in Sacramento could increase the tax to generate two times the estimated funding needed… without approval by the legislature or voters.” “After drinking water, will California tax air?” NewsMax Aug. 29, 2017 Syndicated columnist and author Michael Reagan calls SB 623 a “money-grab” in this NewsMax Op-Ed. After noting that California residents pay some of the highest income taxes (and sales taxes) in the country, he goes on to say “Yet with all that money sloshing around in the state’s general fund the politicians in California can’t guarantee residents baseline government services like clean, drinkable water.” “Gulp! State Senate may tax drinking water from tap” Idyllwild Town Crier Aug. 29, 2017 This article from the Idyllwild Town Crier discusses SB 623’s tax on drinking water and notes that the Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis questions whether “adequate time for the public to review the provisions of the this bill” had been given, a key argument for those in opposition to the tax. The article also includes an interview with Idyllwild Water District Acting General Manager Jack Hoaglund who says SB 623 “will be a bureaucratic nightmare to administer and continue to track.” “Local water officials object to proposed state ‘water tax’” Rancho Santa Fe Review Aug. 29, 2017 This article from the Rancho Santa Fe Review discussion opposition to SB 623 in the San Diego area, including by the San Diego County Water Authority and Santa Fe Irrigation District. Santa Fe Irrigation District’s Jessica Parks and San Diego County Water Authority’s Glenn Farrel are both quoted. “Creating new statewide tax on water is bad policy” East Bay Times Aug. 28, 2017 In this East Bay Times Op-Ed, ACWA Past President John Coleman explains why SB 623’s proposed statewide tax on water is “bad policy.” He directly addresses the “problematic” process for establishing a drinking water tax through last-minute amendments in the final weeks of session. “Proponents have been planning to insert this tax for months, but kept all details under wraps until the last few weeks of session. Not only did this preclude the public and advocacy groups from examining the tax and weighing in, but it also prevented proper vetting before all applicable committees. This is a major change to taxation and water policy that warrants thorough policy committee debate and discussions,” Coleman says. “Proposed tax not the way to provide safe, reliable water” The Press Enterprise Aug. 28, 2017 Eastern Municipal Water District Board President David J. Slawson and General Manager Paul D. Jones II discuss their district’s efforts to provide safe drinking water to rural, low-income communities in Riverside County and why SB 623’s drinking water tax is “not the way to provide safe, reliable water.” They discuss the need for “sensible funding solutions” and “a well-defined governance structure” that ensures public money is managed responsibly. “By enacting governance changes through consolidation, regional partnerships or reorganization, there will be an opportunity to better determine the needs for state supplemental funding and ensure local, public oversight into the resources invested in resolving these issues… If we do not fix the underlying governance problem, the current solution proposed by SB623 will simply ‘throw good money after bad,’” the Op-Ed reads. “Oppose new tax on water” Ventura County Star Aug. 28, 2017 This Letter to the Editor by Las Virgenes Municipal Water District Board Members Glen Peterson and Charles Caspary highlights another important problem with SB 623’s proposed tax on drinking water. “As drafted, future increases in this tax would bypass constitutional safeguards, would not require legislative approval, and revised tax amounts would be set by unelected state employees,” the letter reads. “A better approach that Las Virgenes can support would be to use dollars from the state’s general fund, general obligation bond funds, and the proposed new assessment related to fertilizers, which can contaminate drinking water sources.” “Last-minute water tax can’t be justified however worthy the cause” The San Diego Tribune Aug. 25, 2017 This editorial by The San Diego Tribune hits the nail on the head. SB623’s last-minute tax on drinking water “can’t be justified.” The editorial reads in part: “…to wait until the legislative session’s 11th hour and unveil a first-ever tax on tap water to address the problem is also absolutely unacceptable… Lawmakers passed a measure declaring that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water… Now Californians are told lawmakers can’t commit themselves to devoting a tiny fraction of the state budget to honor the intent of the measure, so a new category of taxation must be created.” “Opinion: Taxing water wont make it more affordable” Times of San Diego Aug. 24, 2017 San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Mark Muir calls a tax on drinking water “counterproductive” to water affordability in this Times of San Diego Op-Ed. He also discusses the trouble with forcing local water agencies to collect taxes for the state saying: “If past is precedent, state government won’t pay for this service, which will put more upward pressure on local agencies that already are stretched thin — and ultimately on water rates. In the end, ratepayers face the double-whammy of paying higher taxes and paying water agencies to collect and distribute those funds.” “First-ever water tax proposed to tackle unsafe drinking water in California” The Mercury News Aug. 23, 2017 In this Mercury News article, ACWA Deputy Executive Director for Government Relations Cindy Tuck and Dublin San Ramon Services District Community Affairs Supervisor Sue Stephenson are interviewed on why public water agencies oppose a drinking water tax. Calling water “essential to life,” Tuck says drinking water shouldn’t be taxed, while Stephenson says that the state should use existing resources before creating a new tax. “The whole purpose of the general fund is to help take care of disadvantaged communities…There’s no reason that they could not also fund communities that need access to drinking water,” Stephenson says. Learn More For more information about ACWA’s SB 623 opposition efforts, please see ACWA’s No Water Tax webpage.