Death By Taxes: California Looks to Fine Everything From Car Tires to Drinking Water

Brittany M. Hughes | April 11, 2019

While its straight-up ban on big-gulp sodas may have been temporarily placed on hold, California is looking to impose a slew of brand new fines on its residents - $6.2 billion's worth, as a matter of fact.

The Golden State's legislature has been inundated with new ideas, largely stemming from the left side of the aisle, for how to raise tax revenue by fining everything from tires to drinking water. And yes, this would be on top of the state's already hefty 13.3 percent maximum income tax, their 7.25 percent state sales tax, their more than $0.17-per-gallon gas tax, local sales taxes and a bevy of other random fees.

Here are just a few of the latest proposals:

  • A $0.95 - $10 tax on residents’ water bills, dependent on meter readings, to offset the “cost of necessary water system improvements” (low-income households would be exempt)
  • A soda tax that, based on past proposals, could come in at about $0.20 per ounce(that’s an extra $4 for every 20-oz. bottle and about $13.40 per 2-liter – and did I mention it also extends to sweet tea, sugared coffees and sports drinks?)
  • A tax on the sale of handguns and all semiautomatic weapons to fund gun control programs
  • A one-cent-per-milligram tax on prescription opioids to fund addiction and drug treatment programs


  • A $1.75 fee for every new car tire
  • A $1 fee on every lead-acid battery to fund storm water cleanup efforts
  • An oil and gas extraction tax estimated to raise about $1.5 billion per year

It’s not yet clear how many of these new tax proposals will make it past the state legislature, given the heavy pushback from the state’s Republican lawmakers and many of its residents.