Opposition from California water agencies – including directors of the Municipal Water District of Orange County – apparently stalled a move to create a statewide “water tax,” but officials warn the effort may not be dead.
The “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fee” emerged as an 11th-hour effort by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) to charge every water customer in the state an additional $5 a month. That money would then fund drinking-water projects in disadvantaged communities.
While MWDOC strongly supports the goal of ensuring everyone has access to safe drinking water, Monning’s proposal, Assembly Bill 623, was seriously flawed. Fundamentally, a statewide initiative should be funded by the General Fund, not a new tax.
Statewide, more than 115 water providers joined the effort and voiced their opposition to the water tax in SB 623. The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) also opposed the bill and mounted a statewide campaign to kill it.
Other concerns about the bill are a lack of specificity about how the money would be spent, and that the funding would fall under the control of the appointed State Water Resources Control Board, rather than elected officials.
Opponents received good news when the Assembly Appropriations Committee sent SB 623 to the Assembly Rules Committee as a two-year bill. That means it cannot be heard again this legislative year, but can be brought up again next year.
That’s usually a significant victory for opponents, but not this time. ACWA is warning that supporters have not surrendered.
As ACWA reported on September 12: “recent efforts by SB 623 supporters include door-to-door canvassing in the San Joaquin Valley, hand delivering hundreds of letters of support to legislators, daily events, continued calls to sign their petition, a strong social media presence, and continued messaging through op-eds and other platforms.”
The last day the Legislature can act on a bill is September 15.