The first ever proposed tax on water usage is making its way through the California State Assembly.
SB623, the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund” bill, would charge every household in the state an additional 95 cents a month, which would pay to operate treatment plants in rural areas where water is polluted.
Under existing law, the California Drinking Water Act requires that the State Water Resources Control Board provide resources ensuring drinking water safety, and the tax would supply money for the fund to finance water improvement projects throughout the state.
Haney Hong, president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association says that whoever is polluting the water should have to pay – not the rest of us.
He says farmers are basically causing the pollution, which is an unavoidable byproduct of the agricultural industry. The association just voted to oppose the bill because it only makes farmers pay 20 percent of the costs of running the water treatment facilities.
“Twenty percent of the funding for this correction for the water source, which is an important thing to do, comes from the polluters, and the rest, the 80 percent, comes from the rest of us in California,” Hong explained. “That’s not how this should work.”
Drought and the need to pump water to San Diego has already raised rates over the last 10 years since the first drought went into effect in 2008.
Hong says the Taxpayers Association agrees that people in poor areas need help to improve water quality, but says this isn’t the solution. “The polluters need to pay,” he said. “If you’re causing the problem, you should have to pay for it.”
Several environmental and farming groups support the bill, saying it’s the only way around a million Californians can get clean drinking water.
State Senator Bill Monning, who introduced the bill, put out a statement that read in part: “While I continue to work with a broad-based coalition of supporters on the enactment of my Senate bill (SB) 623, I know we all applaud the governor’s support for the communities throughout California that do not have access to safe drinking water. These Californians deserve better, and I will continue to urge my colleagues in the Legislature to work together with the governor to finally achieve the guarantee of safe and affordable drinking water to all Californians."
Hong says people should pay for the water they use, "but why should we tax water to fix problems somewhere else? Problems that are created by the people who are doing the pollution."
“The rest of us, especially us ratepayers in San Diego, we shouldn’t have to pay for errors made by other folks.”
Right now, there is no timetable if or when the bill might make it to the governor’s desk.