Last week, Helix Water District’s board of directors received updates on multiple legislative bills that could significantly impact the district and its customers if approved. The board adopted resolutions regarding six proposed bills:

Governor Newsom’s Administration Budget Trailer Bill: Water Tax / OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED
Resolution 19-18 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

The administration’s 2019 budget trailer bill includes language to provide funding to disadvantaged communities to ensure all Californians have access to safe drinking water. The budget trailer bill, based on Senate Bill 623 (Monning, 2017) specifies that revenue for the fund would be collected through a statewide tax on drinking water and an assessment on fertilizer sales and dairies. In addition to the budget trailer bill, three policy spot bills have also been introduced on the safe drinking water subject: Assembly Bill 134 (Bloom), AB 217 (E. Garcia) and Senate Bill 200 (Monning). The district believes that a tax on water would increase the cost of water for customers and that the goals can be met through alternative, non-tax, funding solutions.

Senate Bill 669: Water Trust Fund / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-20 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Senate Bill 669 is an alternative funding solution to the water tax; it would create a Safe Drinking Water Trust at the state treasury, which would provide a durable funding source to help community water systems in disadvantaged communities provide their customers with access to safe drinking water. The trust would be funded with an infusion of general fund dollars during a budget surplus year, which would be invested – the net income from the trust would be transferred on an ongoing basis to the Safe Drinking Water Fund. The district believes that, unlike a regressive water tax which would have high implementation costs for the state’s 3,000 water providers, the trust would not drive up water costs nor work against the state’s water affordability policy.

Senate Bill 414: Small Water System Water Authority Act of 2019 / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-19 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Senate Bill 414 would authorize the creation of small system water authorities that would have the power to absorb, improve and competently operate noncompliant public water systems – those that are historically out of compliance with drinking water quality standards. The district believes that delivery infrastructure and governance structures of failing and noncompliant agencies should be improved prior to any broader funding solutions.

Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans Agreed to by Basin States / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-17 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

The Colorado River provides water to over 40 million people in seven states and Mexico. As a result of ongoing drought conditions and historic over-allocations, the river’s ability to meet water demands has become increasingly strained and could reach critically low levels as early as 2021. Working collaboratively to address this issue, the seven Colorado River basin states signed an agreement on the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans on March 19, 2019 and are seeking congressional authorization for the Department of the Interior to implement the agreement.

Assembly Bill 533: Income Tax Exemption for Water Efficiency Rebates / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-22 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Assembly Bill 533 would exempt from state income tax any rebates, vouchers or other financial incentives issued by a local water agency for participation in water efficiency or storm water runoff improvement programs. Consumer rebates are a proven, cost-effective tool for increasing participation in water conservation programs – taxing rebates is a disincentive for consumers and agencies to expand these effective programs. The passage of AB 533 would also ensure that rebates for water efficiency programs receive the same tax exemption as those afforded energy efficiency programs.

Assembly Bill 1486: Local Agencies Surplus Land / OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED
Resolution 19-23 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Assembly Bill 1486 would require special districts and other public agencies to offer a right of first refusal to affordable housing developers, schools and park agencies before leasing, selling or otherwise conveying any of the agency’s land. The new requirements in the bill could be problematic for many public agencies that have valid reasons to lease or otherwise protect land they own. It could also result in agencies keeping properties vacant, which does not typically benefit nor enhance the surrounding communities.

Read the full board report, resolutions and associated legislative letters:
April 3, 2019 Legislative Board Report