[env-trinity] Opinion: Prop. 3 is pay-to-play water bond for billionaires

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Sep 18 11:19:37 PDT 2018



https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/09/15/opinion-why-prop-3-is-an-irresponsible-water-bond/




Opinion: Prop. 3 is pay-to-play water bond for billionaires 

Sierra Club leader says initiative benefits campaign funders and could harm the environment

Proposition 3 is an irresponsible approach to California’s water problems. The nearly $8.9 billion bond was crafted behind-the-scenes, contains critical elements that could directly harm the environment and turns important water policies on their head.The bond substantially benefits billionaire stakeholders and is a bad water deal for Californians.Bond proposals are best created through a legislative process that is transparent and open to the public. Instead, the Proposition 3 authors have taken a clandestine approach from the start.The high cost of putting the bond measure on the ballot through signature-gathering has resulted in a pay-to-play structure, meaning well-funded private groups have paid for the campaign.In exchange, these special interests have received funding guarantees within the bond — and they’ll receive more than they’ve invested. If the bond passes, taxpayers will end up paying for investments that the private sector would have been required to make through enforcement of existing law. Exactly what projects are included in the bond was negotiated in private.The proponents of Proposition 3 have added incentives that could worsen environmental quality. The initiative could open new funding pathways for dams that environmental groups and smart water policy advocates have opposed.The bond could harm sensitive habitats. Proposition 3 proposes that the Habitat Conservation Fund should be spent on water acquisition. That fund has been an important resource for restoring non-water related habitats. In the face of climate change, the fund should be specifically allocated on wildlife corridor conservation.The proposition also would shift money away from critical environmental investments. It would raid cap-and-trade funds designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and divert the money to unspecified water projects. This would undermine programs that lower emissions and improve air quality and public health for millions of Californians.Proposition 3 undercuts “beneficiary pays,” the principle that those who receive water are solely responsible for water supply projects. The bond would rob taxpayer dollars to cover repairs even though the existing law states taxpayers are not liable.The proposition specifies that the Friant Water Authority would receive $750 million for repairs, reconstruction, and enlargement of nearby canals. Over-pumping of aquifers caused the groundwater subsidence that damaged the Friant-Kern Canal. Those who caused the damage should pay to repair the canals.The proposition would essentially require taxpayers from across California to pay to fix the Central Valley canal that isn’t even their water source. This makes no sense.Proposition 3 began as a closed-door initiative and if passed would sidestep any legislative oversight. Unlike other environmental bonds passed by voters, Proposition 3 continuously appropriates all the funds. There will be no annual budgeting from the Legislature. This would eliminate future accountability to determine if the state can afford the spending and that it complies with the bond’s stated priorities.The ballot measure would add $430 million to the state’s general fund expenses annually for 40 years. Looking ahead, it’s imperative that the state only pay for those projects that have substantial public benefit, such as a permanent solution to safe drinking water for everyone.
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While Proposition 3 claims that it would provide clean water to those in need, only 10 percent of the bond would go directly to disadvantaged communities. Californians can do better.The bottom line is that Proposition 3 would provide back-door subsidies for wealthy private interests. It will not benefit Californians. Proposition 3 deserves a vote of no in November.Eric Parfrey is chairman of the executive committee of Sierra Club California. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters.Proposition 3 is an irresponsible approach to California’s water problems. The nearly $8.9 billion bond was crafted behind-the-scenes, contains critical elements that could directly harm the environment and turns important water policies on their head.The bond substantially benefits billionaire stakeholders and is a bad water deal for Californians.Bond proposals are best created through a legislative process that is transparent and open to the public. Instead, the Proposition 3 authors have taken a clandestine approach from the start.The high cost of putting the bond measure on the ballot through signature-gathering has resulted in a pay-to-play structure, meaning well-funded private groups have paid for the campaign.In exchange, these special interests have received funding guarantees within the bond — and they’ll receive more than they’ve invested. If the bond passes, taxpayers will end up paying for investments that the private sector would have been required to make through enforcement of existing law. Exactly what projects are included in the bond was negotiated in private.The proponents of Proposition 3 have added incentives that could worsen environmental quality. The initiative could open new funding pathways for dams that environmental groups and smart water policy advocates have opposed.The bond could harm sensitive habitats. Proposition 3 proposes that the Habitat Conservation Fund should be spent on water acquisition. That fund has been an important resource for restoring non-water related habitats. In the face of climate change, the fund should be specifically allocated on wildlife corridor conservation.The proposition also would shift money away from critical environmental investments. It would raid cap-and-trade funds designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and divert the money to unspecified water projects. This would undermine programs that lower emissions and improve air quality and public health for millions of Californians.Proposition 3 undercuts “beneficiary pays,” the principle that those who receive water are solely responsible for water supply projects. The bond would rob taxpayer dollars to cover repairs even though the existing law states taxpayers are not liable.The proposition specifies that the Friant Water Authority would receive $750 million for repairs, reconstruction, and enlargement of nearby canals. Over-pumping of aquifers caused the groundwater subsidence that damaged the Friant-Kern Canal. Those who caused the damage should pay to repair the canals.The proposition would essentially require taxpayers from across California to pay to fix the Central Valley canal that isn’t even their water source. This makes no sense.Proposition 3 began as a closed-door initiative and if passed would sidestep any legislative oversight. Unlike other environmental bonds passed by voters, Proposition 3 continuously appropriates all the funds. There will be no annual budgeting from the Legislature. This would eliminate future accountability to determine if the state can afford the spending and that it complies with the bond’s stated priorities.The ballot measure would add $430 million to the state’s general fund expenses annually for 40 years. Looking ahead, it’s imperative that the state only pay for those projects that have substantial public benefit, such as a permanent solution to safe drinking water for everyone.
Related Articles
   
   - Opinion: Prop 1 builds the affordable housing families need 
   - PRO/CON: Is Prop. 3 a water fix or billionaires’ windfall? 
   - Opinion: Prop. 3 will provide clean, safe, reliable water 
   - Editorial: Vote yes on Prop. 12 to give farm animals a cage-free life 
   - Saratoga: Community Briefs for the week of Aug. 31 
While Proposition 3 claims that it would provide clean water to those in need, only 10 percent of the bond would go directly to disadvantaged communities. Californians can do better.The bottom line is that Proposition 3 would provide back-door subsidies for wealthy private interests. It will not benefit Californians. Proposition 3 deserves a vote of no in November.Eric Parfrey is chairman of the executive committee of Sierra Club California. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters.
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