With the threat of a new water tax looming, California Assemblyman Devon Mathis says he has a better long term plan.
Mathis, a Republican from Visalia, CA, is proposing Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 that would annually set aside 2 percent of the General Fund, funding any and all water improvement projects, water infrastructure, environmental quality improvements, groundwater clean-up and recharge, and emergency drinking water programs.
You may recall that Mathis is the Assemblyman who has tried for several years to get his colleagues in the Legislature to pass legislation to fund clean drinking water for the 10,000 poor constituents in his district reliant on groundwater wells which wells went dry in the drought – to no avail.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently proposed a plan to spend $25 million for the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund,” by taxing drinking water. A bill proposing a drinking water tax was introduced last year, but was killed during the committee process under threat of a veto by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“We have communities in this state where the government has gone in and built water treatment plants, but the communities are too poor to operate them,” Assemblyman Mathis said during an interview with the California Globe. “Then the politicians say ‘we need clean water for all.’”
“I’m a military guy,” said Mathis, a veteran of the Iraq war. “We had better, clean water in Iraq than my constituents have.”
A Water Tax on Impoverished Communities?
With the state’s population projected to reach 50 million residents by 2050, there will be a severe water supply shortage due to deteriorating systems and a need for more reliable funding sources. The state’s water infrastructure and supply mechanisms have fallen behind population growth trends, Mathis said.
“We are talking about already impoverished communities,” Mathis said. “Fifty to 60 percent are already on Medi-Cal and food stamps,” Mathis said. “Two percent of the general fund is enough to build one dam in one year. We would never need another water bond.”
Since year 2000, voters have approved eight water bonds totaling more than $30 billion, according the the Legislative Analyst’s Office. However, very little has been spent on water storage projects that would create new water-supply sources for Californians, which is what the state actually needs in order to realistically deal with inevitable droughts. New water supply and population growth is the biggest concern of Assemblyman Mathis.
“Without a proactive approach, California’s water infrastructure, including our natural environmental ecosystems, will ultimately fail; this failure will catastrophically jeopardize public health, the environment, and economic stability,” Mathis said.
“The Governor is talking about the housing crisis, and building many new homes,” Mathis said. “In order for California to build houses, we must improve water infrastructure. We know we need to capture water, and move it down South, and get it into the ground.”
“But in order to do this, we have to have a guaranteed funding formula,” Mathis added. “Bonds haven’t worked. The money is not there — it’s gone, and on what?”
“This is a great formula for how budgets should work,” Mathis said. “We do this for guaranteed education funding through Proposition 98, so why wouldn’t we do this for such a fundamental necessity – water?”
“This is 2 percent of the General Fund – over $4 billion annually,” Mathis said. “Think of the jobs created building dams and canals, and other needed projects.”
“We must move this through the Legislature and have it serve as a blueprint for good government,” Mathis said. “California needs a permanent fix to our continued severe financial shortages in water funding; shortages that have resulted in the delaying of vital water projects. ACA 3 will provide the necessary framework to ensure that future generations will never have to deal with these annual crises. We must act now to ensure that access to clean and safe drinking water is a guarantee for all.”
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