Our state’s water challenges are significant and require innovative solutions. Unfortunately, the current leadership in Sacramento would prefer to solve these problems with new taxes and more laws rather than common sense policies.
In his recent budget proposal, Governor Newsom identified a serious problem: As many as 1 million Californians, mostly in rural and disadvantaged communities, lack consistent access to safe drinking water. His solution to this problem is a new tax on the drinking water of every resident in our state, a proposal that would cost local water agencies more to administer than it would collect in revenue statewide. I helped defeat this very same proposal in the legislature last year.
Instead of asking even more of taxpayers, the legislature would be wise to once again reject the governor’s proposal and utilize existing revenues, including the state’s projected $21 billion budget surplus, to upgrade water treatment facilities. These additional funds would complement the state and federal funds that are already available for this purpose.
In the weeks and months ahead, I will be fighting to not only defeat the water tax, but to move our state away from the centralized, command-and-control, top-down approach to water policy that it epitomizes. The current political leadership in Sacramento contends that the only way to meaningfully secure our water future is by controlling our citizens’ water use. That means forcing people to conserve through water usage caps while empowering the unelected State Water Resources Control Board to impose draconian fines.
Last year, over my objections, the legislature passed an incredible law limiting Californians to 55 gallons of water per day of indoor use. That cap goes down to 50 gallons per day by the year 2030. In the event that a local water agency exceeds its usage allowance, the water board is empowered to fine the water district $1,000 per day, a cost that is paid by ratepayers. After 2030, the water board is even empowered to increase water usage restrictions unilaterally.
Such heavy-handed rationing is not the answer. Instead, we should increase our supply of available water by investing in our water infrastructure. That means building new reservoirs and expanding our capacity to efficiently use the water that we store. Amazingly, no new water storage capacity has been built since the 1970s –– and we have failed to adequately invest in our drainage systems. As a result, an average of 200 billion gallons of stormwater that could be captured each year instead flows into the Pacific Ocean. Our state’s water challenges will not be solved with higher taxes and punitive regulations. That’s why I am fighting for common sense policies that increase water storage and maximize existing resources to provide clean water for all Californians.