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'Proposed Principles'

So, now, the key element of the water bond is just an 'earmark' like any other "local projects that were placed in the bond for political purposes."

Jul 03, 2013

The California Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee has begun to discuss a revised state water bond for the 2014 ballot. This is the same bond that has been postponed twice, both in 2010 and 2012 because legislators didn't think it would pass in tough economic times. Yesterday's meeting was highlighted by the release of 'proposed principles' hinting at the potential political conflict ahead and and the desire for a less costly bond.

Here's a key sentence: "One principle would "prohibit earmarks to specific water projects," which would appear to bar the specific allocations for the two water storage projects that Republicans, backed by farm groups, had insisted on including in the 2009 version." Yes, Republicans and farm groups had insisted on storage as a key ingredient of the water bond. Isn't that, more or less, what we all think we need a water bond to produce? So, now, the key element of the water bond is just an 'earmark' like any other "local projects that were placed in the bond for political purposes."

We knew this was coming because California Senate Leader Darrel Steinberg said earlier that "I don’t think there will be nearly the same amount of money in that chapter as there was in the original bond. And I think there will be de-emphasis, frankly – or at least, on the same surface storage projects.” So, not a huge surprise, but still stunning to see it when it happens.

Public discussions of a revised state water bond for the 2014 ballot were launched Tuesday with release of "proposed principles" by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

An $11.1 billion bond issue was approved by the Legislature at the behest of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, coincident with approval of a process that resulted in a proposed twin tunnel project to carry water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

While the tunnel project would be financed by water users south of the Delta, the bond would pay for a number of ancillary projects, including the beginning of work on two new reservoirs, and thus is a battleground for proponents and opponents of the tunnels.

The bond issue was to go on the 2010 ballot but was postponed first to 2012 and then again to 2014 as legislative leaders and Schwarzenegger's successor, Jerry Brown, concluded that it would likely fail. They say the bond issue should be made smaller and eliminate some specific projects that critics termed "pork."

The committee staged a brief discussion of the one-page outline that hinted at the political conflict over how large the bond should be and how the funds should be allocated.

One principle would "prohibit earmarks to specific water projects," which would appear to bar the specific allocations for the two water storage projects that Republicans, backed by farm groups, had insisted on including in the 2009 version, as well as some of the local projects that were placed in the bond for political purposes.

The latter included removal of two power dams on the Klamath River and a parks project in the district of Rep. Karen Bass, who was speaker of the Assembly when the bond was being written.

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