California, which already has the highest taxes in the nation, has finally decided to just go all in and tax drinking water.
We'll repeat that: Drinking water in California could soon be taxed.
Lawmakers in the state of Californistan have proposed more than $6.2 billion worth of tax increases, according to the California Tax Foundation (CTF). Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has submitted a $209 billion budget that would set aside nearly $20 billion in a reserve fund.
Newsom says the state lacks access to clean drinking water, calling the situation a "disgrace."
A new bill in the state legislature would establish "the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury, and is expected to be amended to include a tax-like 'fee' on drinking water to raise funds for State Water Resources Control Board to administer programs intended to provide safe drinking water for all Californians," the CTF reported. The Foundation added that in 2018, a similar bill "was estimated to cost taxpayers $100 million annually, according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee."
If passed, residents would be charged anywhere from $1 to $10 a month on their water bills, depending on usage. Unlike many other tax bills — which require support from two-thirds of lawmakers — the new water tax requires a simple majority.
Some critics argue that California would set a precedent if it taxes water.
"A state-imposed tax would not only be an outlier from a national perspective, it would be for California as well," John Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), wrote in January. "Moreover, there are other ways to fund the one-time $150 million cost of necessary water system improvements. Not only is there federal funding specifically available for this purpose, California has passed several statewide bonds that have allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for clean water infrastructure improvements."
"The only conceivable reason for imposing higher taxes is to establish new, permanent sources of revenue," Coupal wrote.
The list of new taxes is long and include some truly wacky ideas, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Here’s an eye-roller: A bill that would authorize San Francisco to turn its crooked Lombard Street — a tourist attraction after so many movie appearances — into a toll road, maybe even requiring reservations. Think they have a traffic jam now on weekends? Wait until cars are lined up behind a tollgate."
There are a whole bunch of taxing ideas in the Capitol: on new tires, firearms, water, prescription painkillers, lawyers, car batteries, corporations based on their CEO pay, estates worth more than $3.5 million, oil and gas extraction. The list goes on.
California state regulators had earlier proposed a new charge for cell phone users on text messaging as a means of collecting taxpayer money to pay for programs to make phone service cheaper to low-income residents, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
No fee was ever set, but the News said the fee "likely would be billed as a flat surcharge per customer — one of those irksome fees at the bottom of your wireless bill — not a fee per text." And cell phone users might have had to retroactively pay the fee for the last five years, the News said, noting that the new fees could bring in upwards of $50 million a year.
But the California Public Utilities Commission scrubbed a scheduled vote from its January meeting agenda after the Federal Communications Commission ruled that such messaging is not taxable.