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Why This Bay Area Senator Was the Sole No Vote on Newsom's Clean Water Plan

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California State Senator Bob Wieckowski in Sacramento on May 15, 2017. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

Bob Wieckowski stands alone. 

He was the only state senator to vote against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to clean up dirty drinking water in the California’s poorest communities, which passed the Senate in a 38-1 vote on Monday.

The bill — SB 200 — passed the Assembly last week without a single vote in opposition.

To be clear, Wieckowski thinks clean water is an important priority. His quibble is that California will pay for it with revenue generated from the state’s cap-and-trade auction.

His argument: money in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) is supposed to be spent on, well, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Diverting limited GGRF dollars away from cutting greenhouse gas emissions to other important causes, is not a path we should go down now or in the future,” Wieckowski said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“Members, we are falling farther behind in our commitment to meeting the Paris Accord,” he said. “We should not be creating a false dichotomy that is a by-product of this deal – pitting clean air against clean water. We know all Californians can, and must, have both.”

The bill includes $100 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and another $33 million from the general fund to be spent on rebuilding broken drinking water infrastructure in unincorporated communities and small towns across the state. 

And it’s not a one-time money diversion. The bill also seeks to use 5% of California’s cap-and-trade proceeds, up to $130 million annually, for clean water projects until 2030.

Earlier this year, the governor proposed a tax on all Californians’ water bills that would fund programs to clean up the dirty water, and in January, Newsom and his cabinet visited Monterey Park Tract in Ceres, a Central Valley city with contaminated wells, to highlight the issue.

But the Legislature didn’t approve the plan, as some lawmakers worried that their constituents would object to a new monthly tax at a time when the state is enjoying a budget surplus.

The bill hasn’t reached Newsom’s desk yet, but he will have 12 days to sign it, when it does.

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