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California Dem Gov. Gavin Newsom wheels out plan for new statewide tax on drinking water


Proposal already facing opposition

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) wants to tax the state's drinking water, a move he says will allow poor people access to safe and affordable water.

When did this come up?

Newsom's proposed 2019-20 budget includes the creation 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," SFgate.com reported.

The Association of California Water Agencies, which represents more than 400 water suppliers across the state, swiftly rebuked the idea of a water tax. In a statement, the association said it would be “highly problematic" and not necessary due to what it calls the state's ample budget surplus.

"The vast majority of the state's residents have access to safe drinking water, but a small percentage of the population does not," the association stated. "This unacceptable reality is a social issue for the State of California. ACWA believes that making access to safe drinking water for all Californians should be a top priority for the State. However, a statewide water tax is highly problematic and is not necessary when alternative funding solutions exist and the state has a huge budget surplus."

Orange County Republican Travis Allen, who ran for governor in 2018, also blasted the idea.

"In one of his first official acts @GavinNewsom wants to TAX YOUR WATER," Allen tweeted. "There is no limit to what @TheDemocrats will tax or excuses they'll make to TAKE YOUR MONEY. It's time Republicans start fighting and TAKE BACK CALIFORNIA!!"

Specifics on exactly how the water tax would work are not yet known, but Newsom on Friday began pushing the plan as he travelled with members of his cabinet to the Central Valley, to talk with 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," he wrote on Twitter.

Was this ever tried before?

Former Governor Jerry Brown attempted to tax California's water under a plan that failed in the state legislature. His proposal would have taxed California residents 95 cents a month or $11.40 a year.

An estimated 6 million Californians rely on water providers that violated state standards at some point in the last six years, according to a 2018 investigation by McClatchy News. The news outlet's report found that the majority of Californians without safe drinking water live in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert.

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