Water meters are a sore subject in my neighborhood.
The City of Sacramento has been installing water meters for the past few years as part of its effort to comply with a state mandate. This year, it was my neighborhood’s turn to endure the inefficient mess that has become Sacramento’s water meter installation project.
Earlier this spring, my neighbors and I received a postcard outlining the notices that we would receive before the streets would be torn up. Promises made were not promises kept. Without advance warning, I awoke one morning to the loud noise of trucks and workers tearing up the street in front of my driveway, making it very difficult to get my car out of my own garage.
All summer long, my neighbors and I have had to endure inconvenient roadblocks, uneven streets, and open trenches in varying states of completion.
What will we find when we reach the end of the rainbow? Not a pot of gold, but higher water bills, according to a friend who is knowledgeable about such things. This is in addition to water and sewer rates that will rise annually through 2019.
The last thing that my neighbors and I want are even higher water taxes. But that’s exactly what could be in store for us under a proposal kicked around at the State Capitol this year.
To add insult to injury, the tax in question is a new water meter tax!
Under SB 623, Californians would pay a new $2 billion tax over 15 years on water meters to pay for “safe and affordable water.” Note the irony of asking Californians to pay more for water in the name of affordability.
The goal of the bill is to improve water quality and provide better access to drinking water in disadvantaged communities. These are noble goals, but the question comes down to how to pay for it. The Legislature wants Californians to pay even more in taxes to pay for something that should be funded through the existing taxes we already pay.
Fortunately, the bill stalled and was not approved before the Legislature adjourned this year. Lawmakers should go back to the drawing board and find a fairer way to fund their priorities.
Upon learning of the proposed water meter tax, Marie Barajas of San Jose told the Mercury News, “That’s not fair. We’re not responsible for that. That’s why we pay taxes.” She’s right.
Ask my neighbors if they would be willing to pay a new water meter tax and you’d get a similar answer. And I’d be prepared to duck too.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.