California Lawmakers moved to reject Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed water tax on Wednesday. The California Senate Budget Committee recommended that Newsom find the funds for his safe water plan.
As an alternative source of funding to Newsom’s water tax, Democrat Bill Monning proposes Senate Bill 200 which allocates $150 million from the state’s general fund to clean contaminated local water systems. However, it is currently unclear which programs will have to be cut to find the funds or dip into the state budget surplus.
“It’s been a big stumbling block when it’s called a tax,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist who has been working towards finding funds for the water improvements. “That’s the beauty of this, it’ll be in every budget.”
Meanwhile, the state of California enjoys a $22 billion budget surplus. California’s current budget surplus is larger than the entire budget of 20 other states, yet Gov. Newsom still adamantly advocates for budget increases.
When running a $22 billion budget surplus, the $150 million clean water project might seem like a drop in the bucket, and that’s because it is.
David Wolfe, legislative director for Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, clarified his position on Newsom’s proposed water tax, “we have a $22 billion surplus and dealing with this one-time infrastructure problem by all accounts is going to be about $150 million,” said Wolfe. “Once these projects are done, this isn’t something we have to revisit. We’re way more in favor of that than a precedent-setting tax.”
It is unclear why Newsom felt the ‘one-time’ improvements in water infrastructure would be better accomplished by a recurring tax, especially when the water tax would generate far more funds than those necessary to greatly improve the current water system.
This seems to be a common practice of overtaxation for a mild hindrance, where it’ll only cost the government a one-time payment, while they will spend years taxing the public on water, which is essential to life, again putting politics before the public interest.
When the water tax is said and done, “we’re talking about close to $2.4 billion in new taxes,” said Republican State Senator Patricia Bates. It doesn’t make much sense to overtax people for life essentials when “everything in California is costing more and incomes are less.”
Jon Coupal, the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which is the largest taxpayers’ association in California, explained that “there is no reason for higher taxes, and the things they’re talking about like the water tax are very much like the previous increase in the gas tax.”
“There’s wariness about the lessons from the gas tax, and I think that applies in the case of the water fees,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget & Policy Center. “Water fees are the kind of thing that everybody would pay, which is very much like the gas tax.”
Despite Gov. Newsom’s several proposals for taxes on life essentials, there is already an abundance of funding for the project within the current budget. Newsom claims his additional increases to the “budget fortifies California’s fiscal position while making long-sighted investments to increase affordability for California families.”
While Newsom claims that “we’re not going to deviate from being fiscally prudent,” there is a divergent statement being made by Gov. Newsom’s actions. Given the magnitude of the current budget surplus, Newsom’s insistence on increasing the budget and constant tax proposals simply do not make sense.
Gov. Newsom has continued to show his inability to control the cost of living for the citizens of California. The governor seems to have no interest in helping his constituents but is instead more inspired to act politically.
As of June 15 closes in, the future for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal hangs in the tentative balance between California lawmakers and the ever increasing cost of living for the public.