No Opposition to California Proposition Promoting Stormwater Capture

Voters looking for a reason to vote against Prop 72, which provides a tax break for homeowners who install rainwater capture systems, won't find one. None were submitted. Proponents of measures for parks, climate, and transportation are not so lucky.

3 minute read

May 22, 2018, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Stormwater Infrastructure

Presidio of Monterey / Flickr

KQED science editor Danielle Venton interviews a Petaluma homeowner who installed a $300 rainwater capture system three years ago "that has already paid for itself" in savings on his water bill. "From the perspective of water managers, [he] is doing something great, but the cost of that rainwater system adds to the value of the house an that could mean higher property taxes, especially for some big systems that can cost thousands of dollars," she states on the audio version of the article.

"That's why lawmakers put Proposition 72 on the ballot," based on Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 9 sponsored by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Concord, which passed both chambers unanimously, adds Venton.

Rainwater systems catch rain from the roof of a home and siphon it to a large barrel, or even larger cistern, for outdoor use. Prop 72 aims to encourage rainwater catchment by ensuring that homeowners who install a system won't have to pay property tax on the increased value of the home, similar to the way the tax code treats rooftop solar, until the house is sold.

"Proposition 72 is one of the easier questions on the June 5 ballot," opines the Los Angeles Times editorial board on April 24. "Homeowners should be rewarded, not penalized, for collecting the rainwater that falls on their roofs and for using it on their landscaping to save precious tap water."

One important caveat to note: Should Prop. 72 pass, it will only apply to rain catchment systems completed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

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Three more propositions facing voters on June 5

  • Proposition 68: $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects.
  • Proposition 69Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox.

Remember last year's 12-cents per gallon gas tax increase, aka Senate Bill 1? Revenues from the additional gas tax and 20-cents per gallon diesel tax increase are constitutionally required to be spent on transportation, mostly roads, per Article 19, 

While the legislature promised all of the SB 1 revenues, projected to be $5 billion annually, would be spent on transportation, two of the new revenue measures, an annual transportation improvement fee [ppt] between $25 and $175 based on vehicle value, and a four percent increase in the diesel sales tax do not fit into the Article 19 'transportation lockbox.'

Prop. 69 fixes that problem, or makes it worse, depending on one's perspective. In addition, it would apply to the entire 13 percent diesel sales tax (scroll down to 'diesel'), not just the additional increment.

Regardless of how one feels about transportation lockboxes, with a repeal of all of the SB 1 taxes and fees all but certain to be on the ballot in November, it can't hurt.

2017 was a remarkably successful legislative year for transportation and the environment in California. Another landmark bill that passed was AB 398, allowing for the continuation of the nation's only state-run carbon trading program. Similar to SB 1, a super-majority vote was needed, which meant getting a few Republican votes. From Planetizen:

A companion constitutional amendment pushed by Republicans, ACA 1, that will require a two-thirds vote in 2024 by the legislature to pass an expenditure plan for cap-and-trade revenues, known as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, in 2024. First it must pass a vote by the general electorate in June 2018.

So Californians will essentially be voting on a measure that affects a budgetary item in 2024. For all other years, a simple majority vote will determine the expenditure plan for cap-and-trade revenues.

Environmentalists are lined-up against Prop. 70, unlike AB 398 where they were divided because of concessions made to ensure its passage.

What's very strange is seeing Gov. Brown signing the "pro" argument because if it passes, it endangers one of the governor's "legacy" projects: "Gov. Jerry Brown's High-Speed Gamble." Presumably, it was a promise he made to secure Republican votes to pass AB 398.

Monday, May 21, 2018 in KQED Science

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