California Drinking Water

DIRTY WATER — Cows are seen at a dairy in Galt, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to impose new fees on water customers and animal and dairy farms to pay for public water improvements.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to charge California water customers up to $10 a month to help clean up contaminated water in low-income and rural areas, but he will face resistance from some legislative Democrats loath to impose new taxes.

The Democratic governor says up to 1 million California residents have some type of contaminated or unclean water coming through their taps that can cause health issues. He has called it “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.”

“The fact that in California, in the fifth-largest economy, we have people who cannot drink their water, people who can’t even bathe in their water, there’s something absolutely wrong,” Democratic Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes said Wednesday during a hearing on Newsom’s plan.

The fee on water customers would affect households and businesses — an idea lawmakers killed last session. Newsom wants to combine it with fees on animal farmers, dairies and fertilizer sellers to raise $140 million a year.

A competing proposal by Democratic Sen. Anna Caballero would use money from the state’s multibillion-dollar surplus to create a trust fund to pay for water improvements.

Newsom’s plan could be difficult to pass because tax and fee increases require support from two-thirds of lawmakers.

Democrats hold 75% of the legislative seats, but some who represent moderate or agricultural districts may balk at the proposal, particularly after voters recalled a Democratic senator last year after he voted to raise the gas tax. Caballero, for example, represents an agricultural district previously held by a Republican.

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