July 13, 2022- The proposed “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act” could prevent water providers and other public agencies from delivering essential services and building critical infrastructure projects.
Rowland Water District (RWD) opposes the proposed amendment to the California Constitution since it would severely limit the ability of the District and other public agencies to collect fees necessary to maintain infrastructure and fund ongoing operations.
The statewide ballot initiative is intended to restrict government agencies’ capacity to enact or modify fees, taxes or assessments. It limits all revenues to a vague standard of the “minimum amount necessary” to fund services. Under current law, agencies such as RWD are already required to ensure rates and fees only cover reasonable costs, meaning there are no profits or excessive charges.
The proposal would take effect retroactively to January 1, 2022, even though it would not appear on the ballot until November 2024 and void any rate adjustments made during the nearly three-year period. In addition to threatening the authority of government agencies to meet the needs of their local communities, the measure’s confusing requirements expose them to costly litigation that would ultimately be charged to ratepayers.
“Before you sign a petition, you should fully understand the impact this measure could have on you and your community,” RWD General Manager Tom Coleman said. “Our Board of Directors is directly accountable to the public, and we have a transparent and effective rate-setting process as required by law. Instead of helping our customers, this initiative would lead to greater uncertainty.”
Due to a lack of clear language, the proposed initiative could require water agencies to make short-term fixes now while ignoring infrastructure investments that could save money and better serve customers in the long run.
Proponents of the initiative must collect 997,139 valid voter signatures by August 2, 2022, to qualify for the November 2024 statewide ballot. Dozens of special districts and more than 100 other local agencies oppose the measure.