On Wednesday, the California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown united to endorse a $7.5 billion water bond, AB1471, that will appear on November’s ballot. A previous water bond from 2009 had been approved by the California legislature but was thought too expensive and too beholden to special interests to be approved by voters.
The new water bond passed 77-2 in the Assembly and 37-0 in the Senate, with the only votes against it coming from Republican Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and Democrat Wesley Chesbro of Arcata.
Brown signed the legislation, lauding the near-unanaimity of the legislature and asserting, “It’s about water, it’s about our future, it’s about Californians coming together.”
The last obstacle to the legislation’s passage was the dispute over the quantity of funds to be spent on new reservoirs and other storage projects.
The 2009 ballot measure, which twice failed to pass the legislature, called for $11.1 billion, and the state government was urgently working to get a water bond passed, as the state’s drought caused farmers’ crops to dry up, caused double-digit unemployment in rural areas, dried out reservoirs, and stimulated local governments to institute harsh water restrictions.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was pleased with the passage of the legislation, saying, “The need is so great in California. The time is now.”
A battle within the legislature had raged for weeks because Democrat legislators were against more funding for reservoirs and were more concerned with protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta environment, while GOP members fought for added funds for the reservoirs. The new bond includes $2.7 billion for storage projects, including a reservoir in Colusa County north of Sacramento and another reservoir in the Sierra Nevada northeast of Fresno. The 2009 proposal had wanted $3 billion more than the present proposal for the reservoirs.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, a Republican whose district would be the site of one of the proposed reservoirs, said, “This now offers us an opportunity to guarantee the future. This is not about us and not about the next election; it’s about our grandchildren.”
Agricultural, environmental and business groups immediately endorsed the new legislation, which includes $7.1 billion in new borrowing and $400 million drawn from bonds previously passed.
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, “People should feel a sense of comfort that when you got the boat rowing in the right direction that we are going to be OK, we are going to succeed. I think we are all going to become cheerleaders for doing the right thing.”
The bill passed the legislature and was signed by Brown just in time–it just beat the Secretary of State’s deadline for printing voter pamphlets.
Image: Office of the Governor