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‘Water Tax’ Debate Continues After California Budget Passage

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The California budget doesn’t include it, but Gov. Jerry Brown is not done pushing for a new charge on water users, which would fund clean drinking water in rural areas of the state that currently have unsafe tap water.

About a dollar a month for most users would help pay for clean tap water for 200,000 Californians in such communities. Passage of the charge would require approval by two-thirds of state lawmakers.

Community groups, the agriculture industry, and major companies like Coca-Cola have lined up in favor of the proposal, while the state’s larger water districts say it’s a bad precedent to tax a necessity such as water, and that the state’s booming general fund can easily cover the cost.

“The Legislature has indicated a commitment to the administration to continue discussions this summer,” says H.D. Palmer of the state Department of Finance. “They recognize it’s a very important issue that’s going to take more time than the budget timeline to work through.”

The budget does include one-time set-aside of $24 million, which lawmakers also must vote on how to spend.

Republican lawmakers oppose the charge, as do some Democrats, particularly in an election cycle where last year’s gas tax increase is shaping up as a major campaign issue.

Copyright 2018 Capital Public Radio