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California Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed new details of his plans to charge water customers in the state a new tax to fund safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities.
He announced Wednesday his plans to charge water customers an extra amount ranging from 95 cents to $10 a month — money that, combined with fees on animal farmers, dairies and fertilizer sellers, he projects would raise $140 million a year that could be put toward testing wells, aiding public water systems and treating contaminated water. The amount paid would depend on the size of one’s water meter.
Newsom called the drinking water situation faced by some of the state’s low-income communities “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.”
But some observers say that with limited appetite for more taxes, the plan faces an uphill battle in the state Legislature, where tax and fee increases must be approved by two-thirds of lawmakers, some of whom are wary after a vote to approve the gas tax led to the recall of a Democratic senator last year.
Democrats from agricultural districts may be hesitant to support the tax. One such senator, Anna Caballero, has introduced a competing proposal that would create a trust fund for water improvements using money from the state’s existing surplus.
On social media, some were incensed at Newsom’s proposal.
“We are being taxed to death,” wrote Twitter user @dcibbott.
“This $120 water tax on top of the highest gas tax, vehicle registration fees, and one of the highest state income taxes. No! Work with what you have already,” wrote Pamela Adger on Twitter. “Then start undoing all those tax breaks for corporations. Maybe Nestle can pay for the cleanup.”
Newsom first floated the idea of the water tax back in January when he introduced his 2019-20 budget.
He called for establishing a “safe and affordable drinking water fund” to “enable the State Water Resources Control Board to assist communities, particularly disadvantaged communities, in paying for the short-term and long-term costs of obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water.”
Six million Californians rely on water providers that have violated state standards at some point in the past six years, a McClatchy investigation found in 2018. According to the report, the majority of Californians that lack safe drinking water live in the southern San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown attempted a similar proposal last year, but it died in the Legislature. Under Brown’s plan, residents would have been taxed a more modest sum than under the Newsom plan — 95 cents a month.
Earlier this year, Newsom took his Cabinet on a trip to the Central Valley to hear from residents who lack clean drinking water.
“We met with residents who cannot drink or bathe with the water in their homes, while paying more for it than those in Beverly Hills,” Newsom tweeted.
Central Valley residents who support the tax echoed those themes at Wednesday’s press conference.
“We are the poorest families,” said Lucy Hernandez, a resident of Tulare County, “and we are willing to pay the tax because we spend a lot more money than the tax buying water bottles for our families.”
The AP and SFGATE staff writer Eric Ting contributed to this report.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/gavin-newsom-drinking-water-tax-california-drought-13707524.php.