Commentary

Patricia Suzanne | They’ve Even Found a Way to Tax the Rain

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street

If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat

If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat

If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

…‘Cuz I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

— Lyrics by George Harrison

You don’t hear it in The Beatles “Taxman” song, but look out, Los Angeles County residents – your government has found a way to tax the rain. Yes, the water that falls on your roof. Or rather, off your roof. Or rather, all surfaces that shed rainwater when it falls from the sky. Or even if we have another drought!

Nearly 70 percent of voters were duped last November into passing Measure W, purposefully and deceptively named the Safe, Clean Water Act. Soon it’ll be raining dollars into the county Board of Supervisors’ new slush fund. 

YOUR dollars.

They told voters they needed the money to improve and protect water quality, increase safe drinking water supplies, prepare for future drought, protect public health and marine life by reducing pollution, trash, toxins and plastics entering Los Angeles County waterways, bays and beaches. Yes, they would do all that if “we” would impose upon property owners a mere parcel tax of 2.5 cents per square foot of impermeable area.

That’s a tax on every square foot of private property that sheds water rather than allowing it to soak directly into the earth. Lawns are not taxed. Neither are flower beds, veggie gardens, banks of ivy. The tax will be levied on roofs, patios, driveways, rock walls and every other surface onto which rain falls and runs off. At my house, we’ll be charged an extra $140 a year.

The tax is being levied not only on houses and apartment buildings, but also on businesses. After all, the enormous roofs and parking lots of commercial enterprises will be cash cows for the county. Just for fun, I looked up Walmart in Stevenson Ranch. They’re facing an extra $11,162 a year in rain tax. Home Depot on Soledad? A boost of $6,842. Wanna chip in? You will, through higher prices on goods and services.

So what, exactly, is the county’s plan? You can read about it at https://safecleanwaterla.org. That’s the fancy new website they’ve developed with their windfall, complete with scenic videos of falling rain, wild long-legged birds in the L.A. River, a young woman pushing a baby stroller. They have provided a link (under “Resources”) to an online calculator that will help you determine how much tax you’ll be paying for YOUR property. Assuredly they will create an expensive new bureaucracy to study and determine which property surfaces are impermeable and which taxpayers may be entitled to exemptions.

Look for the new assessment on your property tax bill next month. Most likely it’ll show up in the ever-growing list of what I call “extras.” Below are the extra categories I see on the twice-yearly bill for my house, each with a price tag, of course. The total for these, on TOP of the actual property tax, is more than $2,000 annually:

VOTED INDEBTEDNESS

SPECIAL WATER

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

HIGH SCHOOLS

ELEM SCHOOLS

DIRECT ASSESSMENTS

FLOOD CONTROL

CONSOLIDATED SEWER

COUNTY PARK DISTRICT

L.A. COUNTY VECTOR CONTROL

RPOSD MEASURE A (This one is from the 2016 “Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches” measure. Ever notice how the words “safe” and/or “clean” are used to entice voters?)

SCV SAN DIST

STA CLRTA LIGHT

OPEN SPC PRESERV

STORMWTR UTILITY

2008-1 MEDIANS

TRAUMA/EMERG SRV

L.A. CO. FIRE DEPT.

(For information about any of these abbreviated categories, simply use your favorite Internet browser.)

Voters have short memories. Elected officials count on that. Before this measure was even a twinkle in their eyes, taxpayers and water customers had been paying for clean water for many decades – billions of dollars through previously approved bonds and other measures.

Seems the voters in California keep handing over money to solve problems created by elected officials in the first place. If they’d had any foresight about water resources, they wouldn’t have channelized the Los Angeles River back in 1938. For the past 80 years, precious rainwater has flowed directly to the ocean, via an elaborate government-planned, man-made storm drain system. Los Angeles “remodeled” its primary river, giving it the character of “infrastructure,” not unlike an electrical grid or freeway system. Their single-minded purpose back in the day was to control flooding. The heck with growing plants, replenishing the aquifer, providing wildlife habitat, enabling recreational activities or anything else. To read more, go to http://bit.ly/LA-RiverHistory.

Because government in the past decided to send rainwater to the ocean, private citizens today must pay for their shortsightedness. Forever. Per square foot.

Patricia Suzanne is a professional writer, retired small business owner, and conservative Republican activist. She lives in a modest Newhall home, where the money required for annual property taxes could pay a full year’s rent on a two-bedroom house in Arkansas.

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