State Bill 623 called the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund” addresses a very serious subject of ensuring safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities. However, requiring public water systems to collect fees from its stakeholders is not the solution. While the District agrees with the goal of assisting disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water, SB 623 has several fundamental flaws related to funding categories, eligibility and State Water Board authority, as detailed by the Association of California Water Agencies.
The bill is currently on hold, but only until January 2018, when it could be taken up again. Tom Kennedy, General Manager of RMWD stated, “Clearly there is a need to help fund sensible long-term solutions and assist disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water.” He added “Additionally, if language proposing a statewide tax or fee on water, also known as a public goods charge, is amended into the bill as planned, SB 623 would become completely unacceptable to public water agencies.”
Rainbow Municipal Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority took a position of “oppose unless amended” on the bill as did other local entities to include: California Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Vista Chamber of Commerce, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and East County Economic Development Council.
A public health and social issue of this degree is better served by sensible funding strategies such as bond funds or increasing industries’ contributions to better echo the polluter pays principles not by imposing a new tax. There is also the fact that adequate time has not been provided for the public to review the provisions of this bill.
Therefore, the Assembly Appropriations Committee in late August decided against moving the proposed bill to the floor, effectively pushing the issue into 2018. This will allow us time to work on proposed revisions to include current funding options and eliminate the planned imposed tax which simply works in contrast to the goal of keeping water affordable.
If you would like to read more about this bill and the impact this could have on Californians go to https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB623
You can also find additional information regarding this matter on our website at https://www.rainbowmwd.com/opposition-to-sb-623-monning-safe-and-affordable-drinking-water-fund