Essential Means Essential… Not Excessive

Once again the giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is playing games with our money. This time they’re playing games with our tax dollars by claiming the tax increase they are asking for is “essential” when the taxes are, in fact, “excessive.”

MWD is back again this year, asking us to suspend the property tax rate limitations imposed by the California Legislature, using the excuse that additional tax revenues are “essential to the fiscal integrity of the District,” a showing MWD is legally required to make. But, MWD did not and cannot show that higher taxes are essential, at least not by any normal use of the term, meaning “absolutely necessary.”

We OPPOSE the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on this issue because they have failed to make a factual showing that additional tax revenues are “essential to the fiscal integrity of the District.”  Why?  Because this finding would be impossible to make given that Metropolitan Water District has collected almost $800 million more than necessary to pay the actual expense items included in its adopted budgets over the past three years. Even with this extravagant spending, Metropolitan Water District still has substantial cash reserves that are nearly at the maximum level prescribed by the Board of Directors.

The fact that the Metropolitan Water District board chose to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unbudgeted expenditures does not change the fact that these revenues were available to MWD and therefore the collection of higher taxes was not, and is not necessary. They have also failed to show why the other fixed revenue options they have available, such as the Readiness‐to‐Serve charge and benefit assessments, options that the Legislature clearly intended be used in lieu of property taxes, are not feasible. MWD is just using another gimmick to avoid the will of the voters, just as it continues to ignore the voter-passed limitations of Proposition 26.

For many of the same reasons, last month we OPPOSED MWD’s intent to issue up to $300 million of new debt to “reimburse” capital expenditures for projects funded from the General Fund and Replacement and Refurbishment (R&R) Fund. We opposed that move because it will obligate MWD to increase water rates without any opportunity for the public to be heard or even the need for an actual board vote for the rate increase. That action was nothing more than an inappropriate attempt to debt-finance very expensive turf rebates that have produced no significant water supply or drought relief.

These games need to stop.  MWD, stop playing with our tax dollars by claiming the taxes you are asking for are “essential” when they are, in fact, “excessive.” While you’re at it, stop collecting more money than you need every year to pay the bills. MWD’s lavish spending practices are hurting all Southern Californians.