Whitman: Water Bond Has Billions in ‘Unnecessary Expenses’

Opponents, including the Planning and Conservation League, of the $11.1 billion water bond that will appear on the November ballot seized on remarks Thursday by gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who conceded that the bond is chock full of “unnecessary expenses.”

“Meg Whitman is right on one thing,” said Jennifer Clary, Water Policy Analyst at Clean Water Action and a member of the No on the Water Bond campaign. “The water bond has billions of dollars in pork and unwise expenditures built in. Those billions in extras reflect horse-trading to get votes for the bond, not to address California’s legitimate water needs.”

Whitman spoke Thursday in San Diego, and said of the bond, “There is probably $2 to $3 billion in unnecessary expenses in that bill.” Nonetheless, she supported the bond measure, implying that it would be too difficult to renegotiate the bond in Sacramento.

Tina Andolina, Legislative Director for the Planning and Conservation League, and also a member of the No on the Water Bond campaign, said, “Using Meg Whitman’s figures for the pork in this bond, the actual cost to taxpayers will be double that: $4 billion to $6 billion, after interest payments. The hit on the general fund would be $200 million or more each year, just for the pork she’s identified.”

Andolina continued, “With California strapped for cash and facing massive cuts to education, health, and public safety, we can’t afford to fritter away billions of dollars just to ratify the bad deals cut last year.”

The water bond was placed on the November ballot by the Legislature and Governor last October. In the late stages of negotiations, the size of the bond grew consistently, reaching $11.14 billion at the end. Typically, the actual cost to taxpayers with principal and interest payments considered is double the size of the bond.

Estimates already suggest that debt service on the full bond will reach $800 million per year from the state general fund. 

The No on the Water Bond campaign released poll results last week showing that 55% of likely voters currently oppose the bond, while just 34% support it.