First-ever water tax proposed to tackle unsafe drinking water in California
May 02, 2018
SACRAMENTO — For the first time Californians would pay a tax on drinking water — 95 cents per month — under legislation aimed at fixing hundreds of public water systems with unsafe tap water.
Senate Bill 623, backed by a strange-bedfellows coalition of the agricultural lobby and environmental groups but opposed by water districts, would generate $2 billion over the next 15 years to clean up contaminated groundwater and improve faulty water systems and wells. The problem is most pervasive in rural areas with agricultural runoff.
SENATE BILL 623
What is it? SB 623, by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, would generate $2 billion over 15 years for a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, which would provide emergency water and longer-term system fixes for hundreds of communities whose tap water doesn’t meet safe drinking-water standards.
Where would the money come from? The proposal would generate roughly $110 million per year through a 95-cent monthly fee on home water bills as well as taxes on businesses of up to $10 per month. Another $30 million would come from higher fees on agricultural and dairy businesses, industries whose chemicals contribute to the problem of contaminated groundwater.
Who’s for it? Who’s against it? The bill is backed by the agriculture and dairy lobbies, as well as by a long list of environmental, social justice and civic groups — an unusual combo. Water districts are against the bill, saying that taxing water users creates a bad precedent and that collecting the money would be burdensome.
Will it pass? If the Assembly Appropriations Committee moves the bill to the floor, it needs a two-thirds vote of each house, which is always a challenge. What’s more, Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes has faced intense blow-back for his bipartisan collaboration to extend California’s landmark climate program, called “cap and trade.” But SB 623 does have one Republican co-author: Sen. Andy Vidak, of Hanford.