Local water districts oppose it, too

The possibility of the state Legislature imposing a tax on local water bills is looming. Throughout the state, local water districts and media are objecting to a tax on water — a critical human need.

During meetings last week, the boards of the Fern Valley and Pine Cove water districts heard about the concept. It is on the Idyllwild Water District agenda for its March 21 meeting. Neither the Fern Valley or Pine Cove boards felt an inclination to support the governor’s proposal, even though the funding would be directed toward disadvantaged water districts.

The Association of California Water Agencies also has been busy. ACWA commissioned a survey about the water tax and then testified about the bill in both the Assembly and Senate.

According to a ACWA press release, the survey “shows that Californians overwhelmingly oppose creating a new tax on drinking water to fund solutions for those disadvantaged communities that do not have access to safe drinking water and instead support using an alternative funding approach that includes existing funding sources.”

The ACWA said 1,000 likely state voters were interviewed for the survey. The result was “73 percent of Californians somewhat or strongly oppose the idea of imposing a drinking water tax on residents and businesses.” According to the press release, Tulchin Research conducted the survey between Jan. 25 and 28.

At the Assembly’s Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation, Wednesday, March 14, Wendy Ridderbusch, ACWA’s director of State Legislative Relations, testified in opposition to Senate Bill 623, the water tax proposal.

Although ACWA opposes a tax on drinking water production, it supports funds for the intended purpose of helping inadequate water systems.

In a separate press release, ACWA emphasized, “[It] is advocating for a funding package comprised of a variety of sources, both existing and proposed, including a relatively small amount of general fund money to resolve this issue without a tax on drinking water.”

FVWD had a discussion of the bill on its agenda and a recommendation from General Manager Victor Jimenez to send a letter opposing SB 623 to the Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Material Committee.

“This will turn water districts into tax collectors,” Jimenez warned the board. “They want us to bill, collect and send the money to Sacramento.”

Director Robert Krieger pointed out that the districts likely to benefit from the tax are largely located in the Central Valley.

“The state is responsible [for helping these districts], not independent water districts,” he stated.

The board unanimously approved sending a letter to state representatives and urged Jimenez to contact the California Special Districts Association to seek its opposition to the bill, too.

The IWD agenda has a proposed resolution on the agenda opposing the tax and authorizing General Manager Jack Hoagland to send a letter to the state Legislature.

The tax proposal was not on the PCWD’s agenda, but Engineer John Egan described it and its purpose during his discussion of the district’s revenues and future obstacles.