As residents in New Jersey prepare to pay for the latest budget increase passed by their state legislature—which will cost a whopping $37.4 billion—one state lawmaker is openly proposing a tax on one of the most basic resources that every individual uses on a daily basis: tap water.
Democratic State Senator Bob Smith is pushing for the tax, which he refers to as a “user fee” that will be forced upon residents based on how much tap water they use. He claimed that the goal for the tax would be to prevent conditions from resulting in rampant lead contamination as has been seen in Flint, Michigan, over the last 4 years.
“There have been some studies done on the water supply in the school system and in some urban and suburban areas and it appears that the more than 100-year-old water infrastructure is starting to fall apart and it’s starting to leach serious contaminants into the water like lead, and it’s similar to the Flint, Michigan, problem,” Smith told Fox 5.
Smith is proposing a 10-cent tax on every 1,000 gallons of water a home uses, which he claims will cost families an “average of $32” each year. The state senator has proposed a concurrent resolution that would include taxes on tap water and taxes on water diversion.
“The water consumption user fee would be charged to water customers based on the amount of water they consume,” the resolution states. “The water diversion user fee would be charged to any person required to obtain a permit from the State to divert water and be based on the amount of water diverted. Both fees would be imposed under a separate act of the Legislature.”
While Smith makes it sound as though the fight to keep tap water free from lead contamination is a new battle, the report from Fox 5 noted that “the state already charges a public utility franchise tax on water system operators of $0.01 per 1,000 gallons of water delivered to a consumer.” The current tax has been in place since 1984, and it was sold with the promise that it would “ensure clean drinking water in New Jersey.”
The timing of the proposal is also being criticized, as it was introduced around the time that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a massive $37.4 million state budget into law. While the new budget specifically targets millionaires and corporations in the state, Murphy bragged about how much it would help public schools and public transit. But residents have to ask—if the tap water system is in such dire need of repairs, why wasn’t it included in the budget?
A year ago, government shut down and beaches were closed (for most of us, anyway…)
A year later, we passed a budget with huge investments in public schools, property tax relief, and @NJTRANSIT and gave the middle class a break by ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) July 2, 2018
The proposal is drawing criticism from a number of people, and in an op-ed for New Jersey 101.5, Jeff Deminski noted that the idea that water repairs were not included in the new $37,400,000,000.00 budget is absurd. “If you let them get away with taxing our water, how long is it going to be before they inexplicably find a convoluted justification for taxing our air?” he wrote.
“Let’s get this straight. It IS a tax. A tax on a basic necessity of life. New Jersey already has a public utility franchise tax on water system operators of $0.01 per every 1,000 gallons they deliver to a customer. You can bet one way or another you’re paying that whether directly or indirectly. That’s been around since 1984 and it was supposed to ‘ensure clean drinking water in New Jersey.’ Now they are trying to hype this new tax proposal with scares of what happened in Flint, Michigan and how it could happen here in New Jersey if we don’t do something. Why did the public utility franchise tax not ensure clean drinking water? Why do we now need to still worry about lead in our water supply?”
While the principle of the tax is theft at its core, there is also the fact that the selling points used to market it are flawed. The politician’s promotion makes it sound as though residents will only be forced to pay around $32 a year—but that is if they stick to a certain regimented water schedule, without factoring in emergencies or water leaks.
As The Free Thought Project has reported, residents in California will soon be scrutinizing their daily water use as a new law states that residents will be limited to 55 gallons of water per person, per day. Citizens who do not comply could face fines of up to $10,000 a day by 2027.
To put the allotted daily amount of water into perspective, a report from CBS Sacramento noted that “an 8-minute shower uses about 17 gallons of water, a load of laundry up to 40, and a bathtub can hold 80 to 100 gallons of water,” meaning that residents would have to give up showers on the days they wanted to wash one load of laundry, and taking a bath would be nearly impossible.