[env-trinity] S.F. Chronicle 8/10/10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Aug 10 10:24:14 PDT 2010
Legislature delays water bond to 2012 ballot
By Wyatt Buchanan
The California Legislature voted Monday night to pull the $11 billion water
bond from November's ballot and delay it for two years, a move that came as
backers of the proposal became increasingly concerned about its prospects at
The full Senate approved the delay of Prop. 18 by a 27-7 vote, barely
reaching the necessary two-thirds majority of the 40-member Senate. Late
Monday night, the Assembly also passed it by the slimmest of margins in that
80-person house, with a 54-22 vote.
Some lawmakers from both parties have called for the bond to be scrapped and
Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, the author of the original bond measure passed
by the Legislature in November as part of a comprehensive package of water
legislation, was not happy about the delay but said that it is necessary to
ensure passage by voters. He noted the difficulty of getting it passed in
the first place and said he does not believe that a better alternative
"Much like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I'm afraid this utopian plan
does not exist," Cogdill said. "Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of
The proposition, known as the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply
Act, funds a wide array of projects across the state, including $3 billion
for storage projects like reservoirs, for groundwater cleanup, drought
relief and for restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
It has come under increasing criticism because of its cost, the inclusion of
nearly $2 billion in earmarks that opponents call pork, and a provision that
would allow private corporations to own and operate taxpayer-built
reservoirs and other water-storage projects.
The bill to suspend the timing of the bond also removes that provision.
Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, said lawmakers could use the next
two years to convince voters the bond is necessary.
"I do believe that the best chance of success is in 2012," she said.
Opponents were not moved, however, and argued that the bond should be
stripped of all but essential needs for California's water. Voters in the
state have approved more than $20 billion in state water bonds since 1996,
more than $3 billion of which has never been spent. About $1 billion of that
unspent money was intended for projects in line to get even more money from
the upcoming bond measure.
Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the
bond and was the sole lawmaker to vote against the delay at the Senate
Natural Resources and Water Committee hearing earlier in the day.
She said the focus of the bond should be lessening the state's reliance on
the delta as the hub of its water system and that there are projects funded
by the bond that are popular but not critical.
"We can't afford it. It's fiscally irresponsible to move" the bond to 2012,
Wolk said, noting that money would go toward building water education
centers even as public schools were closing.
Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres (Stanislaus County), said the lawmakers
needed to "put it on a diet" before the bond goes before voters.
Prop. 18 would be repaid with money from the state's general fund, which has
a $19 billion deficit and is projected to continue to have a significant
deficit for the foreseeable future absent any major action by the
Legislature and governor.
If fully spent sometime after 2015, the bond would cost the general fund
$765 million a year until it is paid off around 2050, according to the
Legislative Analyst's Office.
With interest payments, the bond ultimately will cost taxpayers about $22
Lawmakers were under pressure to pass the changes before a Monday night
deadline for the secretary of state to submit the voter information guide to
the printers. If the bond were to be changed and remain on the ballot, the
secretary of state would have to issue a supplemental guide, which could
cost taxpayers as much as $4 million.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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