Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to place a high priority on water-related issues. On April 29, he ordered four states agencies to prepare a water resilience plan. Last week, when he issued his May revision for the fiscal year 2019-20 budget, he reaffirmed his intention to “… provide … clean and drinkable water at an affordable price for the most vulnerable Californians.”
In his Executive Order, Newsom directed the state Natural Resources Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Finance, to assess existing water demand and quality statewide.
Then they were to project water need for the next decades and work with other state agencies, tribes and local agencies to develop solutions to provide the future demand.
The press release with the EO described Newsom’s action as “directing his administration to think differently and act boldly by developing a comprehensive strategy to build a climate-resilient water system.”
In response to the governor’s announcement, Dave Eggerton, executive director of the Association of the California Water Agencies, commented, “ACWA is encouraged by the governor’s collaborative and comprehensive approach to California’s water issues that builds upon the foundation of the 2016 California Water Action Plan, a policy framework that ACWA fundamentally helped shape through its own comprehensive planning efforts.
“The success of the governor’s plan for water resiliency hinges on effective water management at the local level and ACWA’s member agencies look forward to working with the Administration to accomplish our shared goals,” Eggerton concluded.
In the budget press conference, Newsom confirmed his support for a water tax to finance the cost of improving the inadequate water systems in many poor communities.
However, he acknowledged that his priority was the outcome and not the means to it.
At this point in the budget process, legislative committees have not moved the water tax legislation forward. It would impose a 95 cents per month increase on most household bills and up to $10 monthly on some commercial water bills.
The Senate appropriations subcommittee on Resources and Transportation recommended that the governor’s bill be rejected and simply appropriate $150 million from the General Fund for this purpose.
“A General Fund solution makes sense, especially considering that the state surplus is 1,529 times what is needed to cover the costs to ensure everyone has access to clean water. But even if this proposal doesn’t make the final budget, there are other alternative sources of revenue,” wrote Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and Phillip Chen (R-Brea), Assemblyman for California’s 55th District, in Sunday’s Orange County Register.