EMWD Co-Sponsors Legislation as Part of Package to Promote Tax-Free Solution to Safe Drinking Water Needs
Perris, CA (February 28, 2019) — Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD), along with the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) and Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), has introduced legislation that is part of a dual-approach to address safe drinking water needs of Californians.
Senate Bill 414 (SB 414) and Senate Bill 669 (SB 669), both authored by Senator Anna Caballero, provide a cooperative governance and funding solution that yield an equitable and sustainable alternative to the previously proposed water tax. SB 414 is similar to a bill co-sponsored by EMWD and CMUA last year, Assembly Bill 2050 (2018), which received overwhelming support by both houses of California’s legislature before being vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown.
Nearly 800,000 Californians are served by non-compliant water systems. Many of these systems are small and located in rural areas and lack the governance and public oversight associated with larger systems such as EMWD.
SB 414, co-sponsored by EMWD and CMUA, addresses the governance of these failing systems by promoting the formation of Small System Water Authorities. By promoting governance reform and consolidating systems, customers will have greater oversight of their systems and realize an economy of scale for needed investments to bring the systems into compliance.
“EMWD is committed to working on behalf of our customers, and that includes sponsoring legislation that will protect our customers from a tax that would not solve the root cause of system failures,” EMWD President Ron Sullivan said. “By promoting accountability and transparency, we can ensure all Californians have access to safe drinking water without the need for a tax.”
The state has proposed a monthly water tax on all customers of public water agencies that would be used to resolve failing systems. EMWD has been a leading advocate for alternative solutions.
SB 669, co-sponsored by CMUA and ACWA, would establish a sustainable funding source with existing budgetary surplus funds without the need for a permanent tax on customer water bills.
SB 669 would create a trust account that would be funded by State General Fund dollars during years of budget surpluses. The trust account is allocated by the State Water Resources Control Board and may receive additional funding from general obligation bonds, the Safe Drinking Water Fund, and ongoing Federal Safe Drinking Water Funds to provide a sustainable funding solution. Collectively these funds could only be used for Operations and Maintenance, Replacement Water, Costs for Consolidation, and the appointment of an interim Administrator.
In his veto of AB 2050, Brown cited the lack of long-term funding as a major reason for his decision. SB 669 resolves that issue without an ongoing tax.
“When paired together, these legislative solutions can provide a pathway and a funding source for all Californians to have access to safe and reliable drinking water without the need for a water tax,” Sullivan said. “We believe this is a sustainable and responsible solution that benefits every Californian.”
# # #Eastern Municipal Water District is the water, wastewater service and recycled water provider to approximately 825,000 people living and working within a 555-square mile service area in western Riverside County. It is California’s sixth-largest retail water agency and its mission is “To deliver value to our customers and the communities we serve by providing safe, reliable, economical and environmentally sustainable water, wastewater and recycled water services.” More information can be found at www.emwd.org.