The State Water Implementation Fund for Texas

Effective September 1, 2013, the Texas Legislature adopted rules governing the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) pursuant to House Bill 4 (Ritter). Creation and funding of SWIFT requires constitutional amendment through Proposition 6, which will be submitted to Texas voters on November 5, 2013. If Proposition 6 passes, SWIFT would be managed by the new Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), which I described in an earlier post.

LAO Primer on Property Taxes in California

LAO ReportMany people find the basic rules for collection and use of property taxes in California to be confusing. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has prepared a helpful report about state property taxes, including a series of easy-to-watch videos. It describes the amount of taxes collected, the types of properties covered, the distribution of property tax revenues, the basic rules of Proposition 13 and an economic analysis of California property taxes according to five criteria: growth, stability, simplicity, neutrality and equity. Overall, the LAO scored California property taxes well on the first three criteria, less well on the last two.

Simpson/Bowles, Federal Water Pork and Full Cost Pricing

I had the privilege yesterday evening to hear a conversation with Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and authors of the Commission’s report The Moment of Truth (2010). It was a great chance to hear genuine statesmen discussing one of the most pressing issues of our day. Logically, the first question posed by the moderator was “how did we get here?” Mr. Bowles discussed the five main causes of our national debt crisis—health care, the tax code, defense spending, social security and compounded interest. Sen. Simpson had a very short answer: we got here because US citizens over the past decades have elected representatives to Congress to bring home the bacon. He listed a few of the things that we have asked the federal government to pay for, and number one on the list was dams.

Collision Course: Proposition 218 and Conservation Water Rates in California

Over the past decade, urban water utilities in California have sought to adopt rate structures that combine, to the extent possible, the goals of financial stability and incentives for efficient water use. This is often accomplished through shifting a relatively larger proportion of costs from fixed service charges to variable commodity rates, dividing commodity rates into multiple tiers with each tier for higher use bearing a higher rate, and disincentivizing the use of urban water supplies for irrigation. A recent California Court of Appeal case, City of Palmdale v. Palmdale Water District, Case No. B224869, tested the intersection of such rates with the primary restriction on public agency water rates, Proposition 218. The result: a moderate collision, with potential for a future pile-up.

True Sustainability

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, this post is focused on environmental sustainability, especially related to water resources. Much is made in the United States and world today of the concept of sustainability. This emphasis is not misplaced, and I would venture to say that almost everyone in the world is interested in assuring that our local, national and global environments, infrastructures and cultures are sustainable. Debates, therefore, normally concern what is meant by the term sustainability, rather than its being a worthy goal.

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