Local leaders protest plan to tax tap water

SAN DIEGO -- A state senate bill proposing a new tax on tap water has drawn the ire of officials across San Diego County.

Leaders from the San Diego County Water Authority and about 30 other civic and business organizations gathered Wednesday to protest state Senate Bill 623, which would impose a 95-cent water tax on most households to create a "Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund."

That fund would be used for water improvement projects that ensure clean, safe drinking water for all Californians, bill supporters say.

But the groups gathered Wednesday believe taxing tap water is counterproductive, because more expensive water bills would disproportionately impact the same low-income residents that the clean water bill is designed to protect. They claim SB-623 is one of at least two proposals working their way through legislature that could end up costing taxpayers as much as $15 on their bill each month.

Instead of a new tax, officials like Haney Hong, President of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, believe funds for protecting water quality should come in part from taxes on industrial groundwater polluters, and from existing government revenue streams.

Bill opponents also fear the tax could set a precedent for additional taxes on drinking water.

But the bill's author, State Senator Bill Monning, says his tax could raise $140 million each year, provide households under 200% of the federal poverty level with low-income exemptions and address an urgent public health crisis.

“More than 1 million Californians can’t drink, bathe or cook with the water that comes from their taps. ... How come these million Californians must suffer in silence?" Monning said in a statement to FOX 5.

"My bill is the only path to addressing this crisis here in California and is supported by the Governor, farmers, clean water advocates and environmental justice organizations. It is a great disgrace that wealthy water districts are actively opposing the solution to one of California’s most glaring and offensive public health problems.”