Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Citrus Heights Water District votes to oppose proposed state water tax

Citrus Heights Water District
File photo, Citrus Heights Water District office on Sylvan Road. // CH Sentinel

By Hazel Ford–
The Citrus Heights Water District’s board of directors last month passed a resolution to oppose Senate Bill 623, the first-ever bill to propose a statewide tax on water. Supporters of the bill say it is needed to ensure all Californians have access to safe water, but opponents say a new tax and more control at the state level is not the answer.

The bill, authored by State Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would generate about $110 million per year through a 95-cent monthly fee on home water bills and additional taxes on businesses of up to $10 per month, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Higher fees proposed for agricultural and dairy businesses would also generate an additional $30 million.

“CHWD agrees that there is a need for a sensible long-term funding solution to assist disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water, but a tax on our customers’ water bill is not the appropriate solution,” said Board President Ray Riehle in a Feb. 26 news release. The statement also said SB 623 could hamper local efforts to supply safe water infrastructure for residents by redirecting resident taxpayer dollars to water projects outside of the Citrus Heights area.

The district argues that a public goods charge like the water tax would “unfairly penalize” districts who already maintain a safe water supply and would make funding for local water projects more difficult and costly. The board maintains that local — not state — control of district resources is best for determining use of funds and said the proposed state tax is “not efficient and is not an appropriate solution or sound policy.”

The board said better solutions include issuing a general obligation bond or utilizing funds from the existing Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership that was created in 1996 to help ensure safe drinking water.

The Association of California Water Agencies, a statewide coalition of over 430 public water agencies, also opposes the bill. In a press release last year, the ACWA stated that “adding a tax on water would further erode the affordability of water for local water users” and would “turn hundreds of local water agencies into taxation entities that send money to Sacramento.”

In defense of the water tax, Sen. Monning said his bill will help Californians who don’t have access to clean water, stating in a January news release that “approximately 300 water systems in California currently have pollutant violations” that can cause health hazards.

Since the bill would implement a new tax, SB 623 is required to receive two-thirds approval in both the state senate and assembly.

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)