There’s a Plan to Improve Drinking Water in California — At a Cost

SACRAMENTO -- Contaminated, toxic water plagues an estimated one million people across California.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has a proposal to fight the problem by raising $140 million to operate and maintain water treatment systems -- but it means higher taxes for ratepayers, an estimated $1 a month for most people. For apartment buildings and multi-family homes, the amount could be up to $10 a month.

"It would be a water tax. It would be taxing something that you have to have to live," Association of Water Agencies Deputy Executive Director Cindy Tuck said. "We don’t think that makes sense."

Tuck argues that the state could raise the money to fix this problem without raising taxes. Instead, she is backing a Senate Bill 669, which would invest part of California’s budget surplus into a trust to pay for the water treatment plan.

"We need a solution that doesn't affect the cost of water and doesn't tax something that's absolutely essential to life," Tuck said.

But the state water board says the tax would be the only way to ensure a stable funding source year after year.

"When you have a fee on a bill, everyone is paying that every month, so you know what you're getting," State Water Board Water Conservation and Climate Change Manager Max Gomberg said. "Using the state’s budget, if the economy starts to go bad, the amount of money available for all programs, including this one, would shrink."

The tax is tied to Gov. Newsom's budget proposal. He will have to reach an agreement with the legislature before signing the final budget on July 1.

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