The article in the April 6 edition of New Times, "Supes vote 'no' on investigation, 'yes' on groundwater subsidies," by Peter Johnson was an informative article, but the headline was inaccurate.
The words "gift of public funds" would have been more accurate. Government subsidies are OK when there is a proven direct benefit accruing to the general public in exchange for the subsidy.
In this case, last November, the Board of Supervisor voted to have the overlying landowners pay for the plan to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act's order on certain "high priority" groundwater basins, of which there are several in San Luis Obispo County. Thus, a mechanism for paying for this plan was already in place.
On April 4, the new board majority rescinded that plan and replaced it with one that took money out of the county general fund to pay select overlying landowners instead. This means that there will be some $6 million to $8 million less in the general fund for necessary services that benefit the entire county—law enforcement, fire protection, mental health services, road repair, etc. Thus, not only is there no direct benefit to the entire county, there is an actual detriment instead.
Because there was a payment mechanism in place already, this new action is not a subsidy, in my opinion, it is a blatant and glaring gift of public funds, which is in violation of Article XVI, section 6 of the California Constitution, making the use of general funds in this instance illegal.
-- Shirley Bianchi - Cambria