Soapbox

Why should California tax drinking water?

Addi Dankemeyer, 8, gets water at Shiloh Elementary School west of Modesto. Because of nitrate levels, the school has been using bottled water since January.
Addi Dankemeyer, 8, gets water at Shiloh Elementary School west of Modesto. Because of nitrate levels, the school has been using bottled water since January. jlee@modbee.com

Most Californians agree that clean drinking water is a human right, and that it is a fundamental function of state government to ensure access to safe drinking water. However, there is disagreement in the Legislature on how to pay for it.

 
Opinion

Some members believe that a new water tax should be passed to fund this effort, as supported by the Bee’s editorial board (“This is California. We should be able to drink the water. Lawmakers, fix this disgrace,” sacbee.com, June 4).

Jay Obernolte

This tax would generate from $140 million to $220 million a year. Local water companies would collect it and send it to the State Water Resources Control Board, an unelected bureaucracy, which would determine who would benefit from these taxes.

The water tax was included in Senate Bill 623 last year. Fortunately, we were successful in stopping this bill in the Assembly. However, this Legislature is anything if not persistent, especially when it comes to passing new taxes, so the tax has resurfaced in the 2018-19 budget. Thankfully, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders abandoned the water tax in their budget compromise.

Given our current $9 billion surplus, there is ample money in the general fund to pay for clean water projects without this new tax. If providing clean drinking water is so important to our state government, then why haven’t we been investing in these communities? What we lack is the political willpower to spend our existing resources on these vital government services rather than imposing new taxes on our citizens.

Many Californians are fed up with our state’s high taxes. If we start taxing a basic human right such as clean drinking water, it’s time to reevaluate our spending priorities.

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, a Big Bear Lake Republican, represents the 33rd Assembly District. He can be contacted at Assemblymember.Obernolte@assembly.ca.gov.

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