Taking a stand against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed statewide drinking water tax, the Zone 7 Board of Directors unanimously voted to officially oppose the proposal at its regular meeting on Wednesday.
Director Dick Quigley stated that “taxing water sets a terrible precedent” that would burden disadvantaged communities and increase retailer costs.
Nearly 800,000 Californians lack access to safe and reliable drinking water, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, which has also identified 329 systems throughout the state that either serve contaminated drinking water or cannot provide reliable service due to inadequate infrastructure or because they lack the necessary resources to do so.
During his first few days in office, Newsom proposed a statewide tax on drinking water that would raise approximately $140 million annually to fund solutions for those communities. Revenue would be collected on drinking water for residential, business, industrial and institutional customers, and range from 95 cents to $10 a month, depending on meter size. Fees charged to dairy producers and feedlot operators would generate the remaining $30 million.
The Zone 7 board called it “unthinkable” that some California residents lack access to clean and safe drinking water, but said a drinking water tax would be “regressive” and not the right solution.
Instead, all of the agency's directors have unanimously thrown their support behind Senate Bill 669, which would create a Safe Drinking Water Trust to help those same communities. The trust would be formed within the State Treasury and paid by general fund dollars while the state is in a budget surplus. The principal would be invested and net income from the Trust would be transferred to a Safe Water Drinking Fund overseen by the state water board.
In a statement, Zone 7 said “this proposal would create a durable funding source for costs associated with operation and maintenance and consolidation efforts and would complement existing federal and state funding sources for capital costs.”