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Lawmakers postpone water bond to 2014

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POSTED July 5, 2012 10:24 p.m.


 

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California lawmakers voted Thursday to delay voters' consideration of an $11 billion water bond from this November until 2014 — the second time the measure has been postponed.

The Assembly approved AB1422 on a 69-6 bipartisan vote and the Senate approved the bill by Democratic Assemblyman Henry Perea of Fresno on a 34-2 vote. The bill now goes to the governor, who is expected to sign it.

Voters were originally supposed to consider the bond in 2010, but former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, signed legislation delaying it until this year.

Democrats want to delay the vote again to focus on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike to help state programs and cut the deficit. Democratic leaders have worried about the timing and cost of the proposal at a time they are relying on tax hikes to help cut the state's $15.7 billion deficit.

The governor's tax hike seeks to increase the sales and income taxes individuals with incomes over $250,000 a year. The money would aid the state's general fund, public schools and universities, and public safety.

"I am going to vote to delay it because I think it's critically important that we focus on the revenue measure at this point in time," said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

Some lawmakers say the entire bond should be scrapped because it is filled with pork projects estimated at about $800 million.

"By all rights this bond should be repealed and the reason it should be repealed is because that is the only way we will have a serious discussion over the next year or two about what really ought to be funded in a water bond," said Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. Although she objected to the water bond itself, she voted in favor of delaying the vote to 2014.

"The problem is every year that this bond — the bond that can't pass and won't be allowed to die — continues to hang out there is another year that we're not working on a good water bond," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Others say it's a comprehensive plan that was the product of a bipartisan compromise. The general obligation bond required two-thirds support from lawmakers.

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, said the bill isn't perfect, but there are a lot of good things in it. "It was 10 years in the making," he said.

Money from the bond would go to cleaning up contaminated groundwater, increasing conservation efforts, improving sewage systems, and researching construction of at least two dams.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he is open to making changes to the water bond but defended the size of the proposal.

"It took many of us a herculean effort to get to two-thirds. And that challenge is in part why the bond is so large," Steinberg said. "It's true we talk about pork and I get it, but one person's pork is another person's regional water solution."

 

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