Yes. Of course we need a public goods fee. The state desperately needs consistent funding for water management. Lurching from bond to bond is terrible: expensive at best, makes for inconsistent projects at least. I saw firsthand that it damaged people’s lives; locals trying to do bond-funded work had to lay off people between bond-backed grants.
But, local agencies are invariably opposed to a public goods fee. They don’t want to raise fees for their constituents; nor collect the fee; nor send it on to Sacramento. My perception is that most water policy folks both admit the strong need for a public goods fee and the political difficulty of instituting one.
I’m not saying this with my usual certainty, but last week I got to thinking that combining the conversations about regional legal entities and public goods fees may be a way to get both. Maybe local agencies would fight a public goods fee less if it went primarily to support their Region (and the regional DWM office) and they had some voting control over its allocation? Maybe they should have to pay into the Region whether they join the Region or no, so they may as well join? Sacramento could skim a little to support statewide planning efforts that cross regional boundaries, like flood and water rights, but honestly, with the Regions and the Project spun off, there isn’t much of a Sacramento office left (which is probably fine).
There are difficulties in supporting Regions with their local tax base; poor areas like the northeast would have puny little Regions and the south coast area could pave their regional building in platinum. But we could look to school districts for strategies for evening that out.
I’m not completely sold on this idea. But while I can imagine a legislature setting up a structure for Regions without funding them, I can’t see much hope for a public goods fee unless it is tied into the conversation about Regions. Maybe combining the two is the way to get both.