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Economics

California's Governor Wants Water Tunnels. Antitax Group Wants to Know Who Pays

California has a $25 billion plan to transport snowmelt from the northern Sierras through a pair of 37-mile tunnels to farms and cities in the south. But there’s no indication of how much water users will owe for the huge project or who’s on the hook if they can’t pay for it, according to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the state’s leading antitax group.

That assessment, in a letter last week from Jarvis to John Laird, secretary of the California Resources Agency, is important as much because of who said it as for what it says. Against the backdrop of the state’s withering drought, Californians are fiercely debating Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan, with public comments due on the proposal’s environmental review by June 13. Arguments usually break down by north vs. south, farmers vs. fish. The Jarvis letter, from the group that spawned the national tax revolt in the 1970s, sounds a fiscal alarm: “Unresolved financing and taxpayer issues are a major concern,” the letter warns.