The City of Fresno is planning to increase the price of water. Fresno residents will see some pretty drastic price increases by mid-2016, according to a Fresno Bee article published Sept. 26.
To combat this increase, former county supervisor Doug Vagim has started a petition drive. He needs 4,500 signatures from Fresno residents.
Though this is a city issue, it’s also something that affects the student body. While those living in dorms and apartments may not notice the increase, the vast number of students who rent or own homes in the area will feel the effects of the price hikes.
While this may be hurtful to the pocketbooks of the average student and resident, there is a larger issue framing the referendum.
According to the aforementioned article, the price hike will fund improvements to the city’s water system.
Included in the $410 million upgrade are pipe replacements and pump repair. A new surface water treatment plant will use $227 million of the estimated funds.
The pragmatist and river conservationist in me says “Yes, by all means, increase the price.”
However, that misses the point. These price hikes are not a means of conserving water for the natural environment. The proposal would fund an infrastructure project.
Infrastructure improvement isn’t wrong nor is it unnecessary. However, there should be other ways of funding these improvements.
Rather than charging the citizens of the county, why not use property and corporate taxes?
“Whoa now!” all the right-wingers say. But wait, hear me out. If we are going to rely on government administration of utilities, why not make them use their precious taxes?
“But business and property are already taxed to the hilt!” This point has merit, but what if we had more business operations, employment and utilization of city property in Fresno?
When more businesses operates in a city, the local government reaps more tax dollars without increasing the tax rate.
And here is the overarching problem in California cities. Because of overlapping environmental laws from both the federal and state levels, it becomes increasingly difficult for businesses to buy permits, pay utilities, pay penalties on those utilities and adhere to strict zoning laws when trying to expand.
In a state like California, when it comes to infrastructure improvements, the only options are higher taxes or rate increases on utilities.
While this could be expounded upon and further explained, the ultimate point is this: when a city or county or state does not make wealth creation viable, the government entity itself loses wealth and then must rely on the citizenry — the citizenry that already pays taxes and fees, and work in either the public sector or private sector.
These then create tax revenue and provide services to tax-payers, respectively.
What will happen to the water rate increase proposal is yet unknown, though I think it will pass as most of these things do.
But next time you read a newspaper, sign a petition or go to the polls, think about the big picture.
How will this new measure or law or petition affect the infrastructure of the state? How will such improvements affect the budget deficit? How will they affect the tax and fee-paying citizen?
Government needs the citizens’ money to pay employees or pay private contractors. This will be the case in any democratic nation, state, county or city. The money needed, however should be garnered in ways that alleviate the burden.
This can only be done when the tax base increases in breadth rather than depth. Charging fees is a small bandage over a larger issue.