Huerta, local leaders urge lawmakers to support clean drinking water fund to be paid for through tax

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Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for communities in the valley.

Specifically, Huerta urged the legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. If passed, the $140 million fund would be used for the maintenance of water treatment facilities. It would be financed by the tax payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on every water bill in California.  

On KGET’s Facebook page, initial response was negative. Users said they do not want their taxes raised. But Huerta said this method will ensure access to clean drinking water for all. 

“We’re being asked all of us to pay one dollar more on our water bill to have sustainable funding to make sure not only the establishment of the clean water processes but also the operating costs. We can make this happen if we work together.”

Jesus Alonso of Lamont said he and his family drink bottled water not because they want to, but because they have to in order to ensure the water they are putting into their bodies is clean.

“Where I live, the drinking water is still not clean enough,” he said. “We kept on receiving those notices that read, ‘there’s something in the water, there’s something in the water.’ To protect my family, my parents had to make a financial sacrifice constantly buying bottled water.”

Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, joined Huerta today in support of the legislation.

“We currently have the money to pay for the facilities, to build them, but the communities do not have the money to operate and run them,” he said. “We just want to turn on the faucet and clean water come sup, but behind that there’s a system that gets rid of nitrate pollution,arsenic, things like uranium, and small communities don’t have a way to pay for that. And so they don’t have access to safe and affordable drinking water.’ 

Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) released a statement on the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee’s 2019-2020 budget proposal. In full, it read:  

“There are a few things we can all agree on: It is a shame that in a state as wealthy and resourceful as ours, a million-plus people don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water. Furthermore, our most underserved communities continue to lack timely access to health care – particularly in Southern Central Valley. These issues disproportionately affect my communities and keep me up at night. 

Last week’s proposed budget by the Senate is a strong and comprehensive solution for the Central Valley, and the state of California. Without adding further cost onto families, it addresses the needs of our most vulnerable communities – safe drinking water, a clear pathway to upward mobility and access to health care.”

Meantime, Senate Republican Minority Leader Shannon Grove of Bakersfield said she supports bringing clean water to our community, but called for the money not to be taxed. Instead she said it should be taken from the state’s $21 billion surplus funds.

“We can all agree that Californians must have access to clean drinking water. However, the state already taxes our air and gas, and now they want to tax our water,” said Grove (R-Bakersfield). 

“They want to tax all of us, including poor disadvantaged communities, to give disadvantaged communities clean water. There is a $21 billion budget surplus in this state, so why do we need to tax anyone? We are looking at several other options that don’t include a new tax.”

As this legislation does involve a tax increase, it needs at least two-thirds support in both houses to pass.

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