Who pays for “co-equal” goals?

One of the points made by some economists opposed to the now terminally ill Water Bond is that it would be paid for by public, but would largely benefit private, interests.

According to this way of thinking, the principle should be that the beneficiary pays. This principle makes good sense, but the devil is in the details, especially because the region that the Bond focuses on, the geography, is a below sea level landscape inhabited by perhaps 50,000 souls who cannot hope to pay for the scope of work the Bond contemplates that serves their interests.

So, Delta ecosystem improvements will not be paid for by Delta residents. Who should pay for them? Sacramento waste water producers? Westlands Water District and Paramount Farms? The cities of Santa Clarita, Santa Monica, San Francisco, San Rafael (actually, no—not San Rafael) and San Bernardino?

All of the above? Certainly, San Franciscans benefit from the bond, even though their water supply is cut out of the Delta watershed long before it arrives there. So does anyone in Crescent City, Santa Barbara or Redding who believes in environmental conservation.

The DNP is a bit confused by this principle of beneficiary pays. Assuming for a moment that the bond actually benefits anyone (as opposed to, say, the shared benefits of increasing water user fees, conservation enforcements, and groundwater regulation—in other words, seriousness on the water issue), who, ultimately, does NOT benefit from the Water Bond?

How can the private beneficiaries be distinguished from the public ones? How does a suburban developer in Palmdale get separated from the person he sold a house to ten years ago?

Let’s face it, honestly parsing these questions would lead to a twenty-two, not a two-party system.

Another point of received wisdom is that the Water Bond was full of “pork” that wouldn’t actually help resolve the state’s water crisis. Dan Walters makes this point in his SacBee piece:

It’s loaded with unconscionable pork—such as a quarter-billion dollars for Schwarzenegger’s pal, billionaire Warren Buffett, to underwrite removal of dams on the Klamath River that have absolutely no connection to California’s water supply.

The DNP guesses that one person’s pork is another person’s job. But really, the point is that the state could use some pork stimulus-packaging its belly. We’d have preferred it was a quarter-billion dollars worth installing metering devices on groundwater pumps in the San Joaquin Valley, but that’s just us.

Can any one help educate the knowledge-poor DNP team on either of these matters?

Posted by John Bass on 06 Jul 2010 | Comments (0)


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