Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Negotiations Continue

As part of the 2019-20 Budget, the Governor and Legislature reached an agreement to provide $130 million in funding for safe and affordable drinking water from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and the State’s General Fund.

As reported in the Market Memo, CCM and several other agricultural associations have been at the table for the past three years to seek a solution that prioritizes funding for disadvantaged communities impacted by unsafe levels of nitrates in the drinking water.

While funding is provided in the budget, a budget trailer bill is necessary to implement the fund and ensure continuous appropriation from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund in future years.

Late last week, the Administration and Senate Leadership released its budget trailer bill in AB 100 and on Monday the Senate Budget Committee passed the bill.

AB 100 directs the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) to utilize funds for short-term relief and operation and maintenance costs.  Based on the analysis of the experts we have been working with, AB 100 is very close to the implementing language in SB 623 which CCM helped negotiate.

We believe AB 100 creates the framework that will best ensure funding is made available to the disadvantaged communities most impacted thereby reducing individual landowners’ exposure to enforcement actions by the Board.  For these reasons, CCM supports AB 100.

The Assembly proposal, SB 101, is grossly similar to the Senate proposal with some exceptions.

Both bills require 5% of the annual proceeds of the GGRF, up to the sum of $130 million, to be deposited into the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.  If 5% of GGRF is less than $130 million in a future budget year, a General Fund backstop is provided to safeguard the Safe Drinking Water Fund beginning in 2023-2024 with a 2030 sunset.

The key differences in the proposal are:

  • The Assembly version does not include prioritization of funds for disadvantaged communities whereas the Senate/Administration version does.
  • The Assembly version requires the Board to adopt a fund “expenditure” plan, while the Senate/Administration version requires a fund “implementation” plan.
  • The Assembly version broadens the scope of the fund beyond clean drinking water by allowing for moneys in the fund to address contaminants that violate secondary drinking water standards and other contaminants that may not exceed a safe drinking water standards.

The two houses have not reached an agreement and the Assembly has signaled that the Budget Committee will not take action on the bill until a deal is made.

The deadline to pass a budget trailer bill is the end of session, however, the Governor has signaled he wants a deal done sooner rather than later.

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