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Senate leader: Promote Brown tax plan on 2012 ballot then water bond in 2014
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SACRAMENTO  (AP) — State lawmakers are likely to delay voters' consideration of an $11 billion water bond from this November until 2014, the leader of the state Senate said Thursday.

It would be the second time the measure is pushed back. The bond was originally set for voters' consideration in 2010, but former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation delaying it until this year.

"In all likelihood the water bond will be put off 'til 2014, that's what I think," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

He said the priority this fall is promoting Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to raise taxes to help state programs and cut the deficit.

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

However, Brown and Steinberg have worried about the timing and cost of the proposal as the state faces a multibillion deficit and a continued poor economy.

Negotiators still are considering reducing the amount of the bond but leaving it on the November ballot, Steinberg said, but have reached no agreement. They also are conducting public opinion research in an attempt to predict if voters would agree to the borrowing.

"It's fluid," he joked.

He previously has said it would be difficult to recreate the 2009 bipartisan compromise crafted by Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and legislators of both political parties. Any deal would need a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, requiring some Republican support, and the two parties have recently found it nearly impossible to agree on major issues.

Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, criticized Steinberg's reasoning for suggesting the bond could be delayed.

"It's no surprise that the majority party's top priority will be asking voters for higher taxes rather than focusing on a safe, clean and reliable water future for Californians," she said in an email.