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Region United To Oppose State’s $135 Million Per Year Water Tax Proposal

San Diego, Calif. – Business, civic, and water industry officials from across San Diego County have joined forces to oppose a proposed $135 million per year tax on drinking water in California that would harm ratepayers and likely result in a flood of additional taxes on the state’s most precious natural resource.

Water Authority Chairman Mark Muir (center) speaks to reporters at a news conference of regional leaders announcing their opposition to a proposed state water tax. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego County Coalition of Leaders Opposes Tax on Drinking Water

A coalition of business, civic and water industry officials from across San Diego County has joined forces to oppose a proposed $135 million per year tax on drinking water in California that would harm ratepayers and likely result in a flood of additional taxes on the state’s most precious natural resource.

During a news conference this morning at the County Administration Center, regional leaders offered other funding solutions to improve water quality in poor, rural areas of the state without adding another tax burden to residents in one of the nation’s most expensive states.

See video highlights of the news conference here.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, chairwoman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, joined officials from the San Diego County Water Authority and several of its member agencies, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the Industrial Environmental Association, and several other groups. In all, more than 30 agencies and organizations across the region have signed a letter to legislative leaders opposing the drinking water tax plan.

Encinitas City Councilmember Mark Muir, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors and a member of the San Dieguito Water District Board, warned that the current water tax proposal would set a dangerous precedent. “It would be the camel’s nose under the tent; what begins as a modest increase could quickly grow larger and larger as more projects and programs try to get into the tent,” he said. “We’ve already seen proposals in Sacramento that could add more than $15 a month to residential water bills.”

The tax proposal is being advanced through Senate Bill 623 by state Sen. William Monning (Carmel) and a Brown Administration budget trailer bill related to safe drinking water. The drinking water tax would initially raise about $135 million a year to help provide clean, safe water in disadvantaged communities, mostly in the Central and Salinas valleys, where groundwater has been contaminated by farming operations. In addition, approximately $22 million would be generated by a tax on fertilizer and confined dairy facilities. State legislators are expected to vote on the tax by mid-June, though the issue could extend into late summer.

Read More:

Fox 5 San Diego: Local Leaders Protest Plan to Tax Tap Water

CBS 8 News: County Water Authority Opposes Drinking Water Tax

NBC 7 San Diego: Calif. Water Tax Proposal Faces Opposition From Local Leaders

KGTV 10 News: Proposed California Tap Water Tax Meets Opposition

KPBS Radio: San Diego Leaders Gather To Oppose Water Tax

Opposition is growing across California to the proposed state water tax. Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons State water tax opposition

State Water Tax Opposition Grows Across California

San Diego, Calif. – Civic and business leaders statewide are increasingly expressing opposition to the proposed state drinking water tax.

They call on the state’s leaders to find a better way to fund clean water than adding a tax, as proposed by state Senate Bill 623 and the Brown administration’s Budget Trailer Bill. A chief concern is that a precedent-setting tax today would lead to more taxes on water in the future.

Here’s a sampling of anti-tax perspectives from around the state.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Sacramento: “It is unconscionable that California, which has a record-high $130 billion General Fund budget with a $6 billion surplus, can’t provide clean drinking water to a million people using existing resources. Is this not the first role of government, providing a public good essential to life? The statewide tax would represent a diversion of local ratepayer dollars to an out-of-control state bureaucracy that has little accountability.”
John Coleman, past president, Association of California Water Agencies; board member, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Oakland: The process through which this tax has been proposed is also problematic. Proponents have been planning to insert this tax for months, but kept all details under wraps until the last few weeks of session … To impose a statewide tax on Californians’ water bills would turn local water agencies into taxation entities that send money to Sacramento

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board: Californians are told lawmakers can’t commit themselves to devoting a tiny fraction of the state budget to honor the intent of the measure, so a new category of taxation must be created. Baloney. Yes, of course, the water problem must be addressed — but with honesty, not subterfuge.

Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association: “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. That’s not how this should work.”

Mark Muir, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors: “Make no mistake: This is a tax, and taxing Californians for something as essential as water does not make sense. It will increase the cost of water, making it less affordable. It also will place undo upward pressure on food prices. Call it a lose-lose for low-income residents – and everyone else.”

The Agoura Hills/Calabasas Acorn Editorial Board: “Water districts are caught in a squeeze between environmentalists who want the cleanest water possible released into the state’s waterways—a demand that comes at a high cost—and consumers who are tired of footing the bill … And all of this doesn’t even take into account the future cost of the twin tunnel megalith that will channel fresh water underneath the Sacramento Bay Delta for supposedly more efficient delivery to farms and urban areas in the South. What’s that going to cost? Customer costs are already too high.”

Assemblyman Philip Chen (Brea):Supporters of SB623 will argue that this legislation will help those who are poor, disadvantaged, and reside in rural areas. It does not … Adding a tax on drinking water will only make clean and safe water less affordable for all Californians. According to the California Tax Foundation, since the beginning of this year Sacramento lawmakers have introduced more than 90 bills that would cost taxpayers more than $370 billion annually in higher taxes and fees. Now these lawmakers want to add another tax but this time on your drinking water. Will there be anything that is not taxed in California?”

Seventy-three percent of Californians opposed the state water tax in a recent poll.





The 318-foot-tall Olivenhain Dam in North County is a major component of the Water Authority’s Emergency and Carryover Storage Project. The dam added 24,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity. Golden Watchdog Award

Water Authority Project Named ‘Golden Watchdog Award’ Finalist

San Diego, Calif. – The San Diego County Taxpayers Association named the San Diego County Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project as a finalist for its prestigious “Regional Golden Watchdog Award” in the 23rd annual Golden Watchdog and Fleece Awards.

The “Goldens” recognize the best and worst in local government spending, decision-making, and efficiency. Winners will be announced at the sold-out #Goldens awards dinner on Thursday, May 17. The Taxpayers Association (@sdcta) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to promoting accountable, cost-effective and efficient government.

“We’re very excited to recognize the good work done this year,” said Haney Hong, President and CEO of the Taxpayers Association. “The Golden Awards Dinner is a great time to acknowledge local government’s biggest achievements and also the flops from the past year. We appreciate all the elected officials and notable San Diegans who come from across the region to participate in this event.”

In 2016, the Water Authority and Poseidon Water received the Grand Golden Watchdog from the Taxpayers Association for the Carlsbad Desalination Project for “stretching taxpayer dollars through cooperation between the public and private sectors.”

This year, the Water Authority is up for an award for its Emergency & Carryover Storage Project. The Project is composed of a system of reservoirs, interconnected pipelines, and pumping stations designed to make water available to the San Diego region if imported water deliveries are interrupted. The project added 90,100 acre-feet of water storage capacity for emergency use, and more than 105,000 acre-feet of carryover storage capacity as a hedge against dry years.

The project won an Award of Merit in the 2016 Global Best Projects competition held by the industry publication Engineering News-Record. It was also named Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association, and it won the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 International Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award. For more about the project, click here.

The full list of finalists for the Golden Watchdog Award:

  • San Diego County Water Authority: Emergency and Carryover Storage Project
  • San Diego County Employees Retirement Association: Expense Reductions and Organizational Improvements
  • San Diego Community College District: Props S & N Bond Funds
  • San Dieguito Union High School District & Solana Beach School District: Collaboration During Construction