Ag Council is actively working with leadership at the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) to address budget challenges and curb the sharply rising fees and compliance issues affecting our members.

California historically allocated General Fund taxpayer dollars to offset State Water Board costs. However, over a decade ago during the Great Recession, the State Water Board moved to a 100 percent fee-based system, and the board passed all administrative, program and regulatory costs onto the regulated community, with increases every year.

This is where the farming community is feeling the impact and paying ever increasing costs for certain State Water Board programs not related to agricultural programs, such as beach cleanup.

Following discussions with State Water Board leadership, Ag Council moved to create and lead a coalition to urge Governor Newsom to utilize a portion of theGeneral Fund surplus to address concerns relating to skyrocketing fees.

Specifically, the coalition seeks the following from the 2022-2022 General Fund:

• A three-year General Fund allocation of $150.9 million to cover programs such as Basin Planning, Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment and beach monitoring. This will assist in offsetting some foundational costs of State Water Board programs that benefit the public statewide.

• A one-time allocation of $24.9 million for a 10 percent reserve (up from the current five percent) to allow greater flexibility in the fee system and build a more robust reserve to utilize during difficult economic times, essentially a “rainy day fund.”

The funds are not an elimination of state water board fees. Instead, the dollars would ensure those programs that benefit the public statewide are being paid for by general fund dollars, rather than by the agricultural community. Meanwhile, farmers would continue to pay for the operation of specific agricultural programs, such as the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.

This is a new budget request, so it is a heavy lift. However, it is important we seek to provide some relief to the farming community in the state budget given the out-of-control State Water Board fees that increase each year for programs unrelated to agriculture.

The 2022-2023 state budget continues to be negotiated with a June 15 deadline for Governor Newsom to sign it. Budget trailer bills, which are policy measures that follow the budget, are sometimes not finalized until closer to the end of the legislative session, which is August 31 this year.

Ag Council thanks our members who attended the Legislative Conference in mid-May to assist in actively conveying this request to legislators, and our team will continue to pursue its adoption in the budget.

Future of the Assembly Speakership

On May 27, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) revealed he had the support of 34 of the 58 Assembly Democrats to become Speaker of the Assembly.

Fast forward to May 31, after a six-hour Democratic Caucus meeting about the future of the Assembly Speakership, current Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) remains in place.

Rendon and Rivas released the following joint statement last night.

“I applaud Robert Rivas for securing the support of a majority of the current Democratic Caucus to succeed me as Speaker of the Assembly,” said Speaker Anthony Rendon. “Assemblymember Rivas has brought together a broad and diverse coalition that reflects the high esteem in which he is held by our colleagues.”

“Anthony Rendon is serving us well as Speaker and we have a lot of important business in front of us,” said Assemblymember Robert Rivas. “I agree with the majority of our current caucus that Speaker Rendon should remain as Speaker for at least the rest of this legislative session. I look forward to working with him for the betterment of California and the unity of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.”

In a press conference after the lengthy meeting, Rivas said he hopes for a “thoughtful transition” and characterized the effort as a “first step.”