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 California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review

January 30, 2009

The State Water Resources Control Board has completed 11 workshops thus far  statewide on their proposed septic regulations. The new regulations are the result of the Board’s implementation of AB 885 (Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara) that was signed into law in 2000. After an overflow crowd resulted in the cancellation of the January 27 Santa Rosa workshop, the Board rescheduled the workshop for two identical sessions on February 9, one at 1:00 p.m. and the other at 7:00 p.m. The Sacramento hearing on the regulations originally scheduled for February 9 is postponed and will be rescheduled once the regulations have been redrafted. The public comment period on the proposed regulations is now extended to February 23 at noon.

AB 885 required the Board to develop the regulatory proposal for discharges of waste from onsite septic systems that impair or threaten to impair surface water or groundwater quality. At minimum, property owners with existing systems would be required:

·        Inspect septic tanks ($325 estimated cost) every five years

·        Sample & analyze groundwater of onsite domestic wells every five years

·        Retrofit tanks if found to be causing pollution ($45,000 estimated cost)

Farm Bureau will provide written comments and oral testimony.

Please consult the CFBF Farm Team webpage for more information to help defeat the proposed regulations.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (CVRWQCB) has established a Long-term Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program Stakeholder Advisory Workgroup to provide input on the development of the program. Farm Bureau is represented on the Advisory Workgroup.

CVRWQCB staff must develop recommendations for a long-term program by June 2009. Proposed modifications to the program may include:

·        Establishing subcategories and related requirements for different types of agricultural operations and/or geographic areas. Examples could include: small operations, organic farms, nurseries, and wetlands.

·        New requirements to protect groundwater from potential impacts related to irrigated agriculture.

·        New regulatory approaches, such as use of management practice requirements, technology performance standards, narrative or numeric water quality-based limits, or a combination of these.

Farm Bureau and other agricultural representatives on the workgroup have insisted that groundwater be kept separate from the long-term program and utilize existing statutory authority to manage groundwater at a local level and prevent the layering of a new program on top of the extensive programs that already exist.

There is not much new to report on the State Budget impasse, although rumors continue to fly around the Capitol that a deal on an 18-month State Budget, including tax and fee increases, is imminent. With the break for the inaugural festivities, the so-called Big Five are back at the negotiation table. The state is rapidly running out of cash to pay its bills, employees, and bondholders. The latter would have long-term consequences on the state’s credit rating and the subsequent cost of borrowing previously approved infrastructure bonds.

On December 10, 2008 Governor Schwarzenegger unveiled his Budget Clock and declared that the state is spending $40 million per day more than it is receiving in revenue. That works out to $470 every second, $28,000 every minute, $1.7 million every hour and the overspending clock continues to spin. The Republicans want real cuts in spending, not just cuts in the growth of spending. They also want a hard spending cap similar to the Gann Spending Limit, adopted as Proposition 4 in 1979 by nearly 75 percent of California’s voters. In return they may hold their noses and provide the necessary votes for some temporary tax increases.

Although perhaps not perfect, the Gann Limit did place a real governor on state and local spending. California’s revenue began to exceed the Gann Limit eight years after its adoption and even more quickly at the local government level. This resulted in another legislative battle over reducing tax rates or issuing refund checks. It cost $200M in 1987 to refund $1.1 billion to 11 million households and 150,000 checks were returned as undeliverable. Ironically, this tax relief effort was followed by one of the worst recessions in California history, causing a budget deficit of roughly $14 billion. One can only hope that some lessons were learned and remembered from that previous experience and any new limit will contain safeguards to avoid past mistakes.

Another rumor circulating under the dome in Sacramento is that the proposed 18-month spending plan will include several elements of the California Performance Review (CPR). The CPR was given short shrift in 2004 despite the fact that it offered a valuable opportunity to reorganize how state agencies deliver services. In her initial review of the CPR, former Legislative Analyst Liz Hill said, “Many of its individual recommendations would move California toward a more efficient, effective, and accountable government.” To refresh your recollection, the LAO’s August of 2004 Initial Assessment is an excellent summary of the voluminous report.

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