California mega-water agency could be stealth tax, money grab

SB 34, which recently passed a State Senate committee, would create a behemoth new Delta water agency with extraordinary powers. It would be able to impose taxes upon water users who do not benefit from the tax. Oversight and accountability would be negligible. There would be no directly elected officials on the board either, which would be able to overrule other water agencies at will. Plus, the agency would immediately institute a new special surcharge on water use, something which would certainly drive prices up.

California water wars have been fought for decades by various interests through a bewildering array of local, state, regional, federal, and regulatory agencies. The water wars pit rural areas against cities, and regions and states against each other. All this is done in a furious attempt to grab a share of the dwindling amount of available water. Adding a mega-bureaucracy to this will only confuse things even more. Plus, if SB 34 passes, it is a certainty that numerous lawsuits will be filed, blocking implementation and tying up the matter for years in the courts.

Many existing water agencies oppose the bill, which is hardly surprising, as it would lessen their power and authority dramatically. The new agency would be able to order them to start or stop projects, with no apparent recourse by them – or from the public. This is the most troubling part of SB 34. The proposed mega-agency is deliberately isolated from the will of the people, and would be able to do what it wants without bothersome interference from citizens. This is not progress. California does not need yet another tedious, impenetrable bureaucracy with no real accountability and oversight by the public. A glance at CalPERS should convince anyone of that.

So what is the real purpose of this proposed Leviathan? 50% of the proceeds from the new excise tax on water would be split by various regional agencies.

CalWatchdog says:

The other half would support the California Water Commission programs and the Delta Stewardship Council and Delta Plan. Fifty percent is a pretty steep administrative overhead cost for anything except possibly an Octopus.

So, we could have a massive new bureaucracy that would be stashing away large amounts of money it doesn’t really need. First off, this would be a stealth tax. California is broke. This would be an attempt to sneak in a tax without voter approval in hopes that no one notices. Second, and this is the most important point, state agencies with large amounts of stockpiled money are routinely raided by the State, who takes the money to fund current obligations after making nebulous promises to pay it back sometime in the future. This of course is financially irresponsible and does nothing to help the budget deficit.

SB 34 would create a monster with no oversight that would tax the public further, raise water prices, and provide ample funds for the state to grab in yet another desperate attempt to lessen the budget deficit. In my opinion, it should be opposed

(crossposted from CAIVN)


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