Call the Capitol now to stop a backroom deal that could raise property taxes!

On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is scheduled to hold an “informational hearing” that could trigger a hike in water rates and property taxes without even a vote. 

The proposed WaterFix, now estimated to cost over $19 billion, is a plan to construct giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The state Department of Water Resources contends that this project is merely “maintenance” of the State Water Project, which was authorized by voters in 1960. (Proposition 13 allowed for a property tax rate above the 1 percent cap in order to pay for debt authorized by voters prior to 1978.) 

If this “maintenance” interpretation of WaterFix is upheld by the courts, property taxes could be raised to pay the debt from the bonds that are issued to pay for the tunnels. In fact, the State Water Project contracts require water agencies to raise property taxes if they can’t pay their financial obligations to the state any other way.

Under state law, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee must hold an informational hearing before a long-term water contract can be finalized. No vote is necessary. Just holding the hearing is enough to authorize the contract.

Here’s what the planned hearing on Tuesday would authorize: a 50-year extension of all the current state water contracts, with amendments that may lock in the debt for WaterFix as part of the debt authorized prior to Proposition 13. Why 50 years? So long-term bonds can be sold immediately, committing California water customers and taxpayers to a financial obligation that runs through the end of 2085.

The tunnels project is controversial and much remains unknown about what it will ultimately cost and how the state expects to pay for it. The current water contracts still have years to run, so there is no rush to approve a contract extension now, while the Legislature is not even in session.

As Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, wrote in a letter to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on behalf of the California Legislative Delta Caucus, “The timing of this hearing and lack of adequate notification is deeply disturbing, an example of backroom dealing that causes Californians to distrust their elected leaders. There is no good reason to hold these hearings now. These contracts don’t expire until 2023, five years from now. This is another attempt by proponents of the Delta tunnels to push this project through. I am disappointed the Joint Legislative Budget Committee couldn’t see that this hearing is unnecessary at this time.”

Please call committee chair Sen. Holly Mitchell, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Please call the committee members. Ask them to postpone Tuesday’s hearing. The state water contract extension should not be authorized at this time. 

Their phone numbers are below. If you would like to call your own representatives, you can find their names and contact information at http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.


HJTA1Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

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