Delayed Again? Senate Committee Votes To Push Water Bond To 2014

Earlier this week, the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1422 (Perea), a bill which delays the 2012 Water Bond until the November 2014 ballot without making any changes to the content of the bond. The committee initially rejected a motion by Senator Wolk (D-Davis) to repeal the bond altogether. The Senator had indicated that the bond ignores vital aspects of the water situation while providing too much funding to pork barrel projects unconnected to water.

If AB 1422 passes, and is signed by the Governor, it will be the second time the $11.14 billion bond measure has be delayed. Since its 2009 inception, many groups – including PCL – deemed this measure too expensive and not focused on the right water priorities for the state. These critiques have only grown stronger during the last three years in light of California’s economic climate and daunting budget deficits. Last year, even Governor Brown indicated that, in its current form, the bond “simply won’t pass.”

Now, two years after the bond was first delayed, we are experiencing a serious case of déjà vu. The economy is still off track, deficits remain high and the bond continues to have a hefty price tag. In addition, the politics – at least from the Administration’s perspective – have gotten even worse since Governor Brown certainly does not want the bond competing with his proposed tax measure on the November ballot. Considering all these factors, the Legislature and the Governor are almost certain to approve the Water Bond delay.

What this means for the long-term future of the bond, however, remains an open question.

Assuming the bond is delayed until 2014; by that time many of the strategies and programs in the bond will have either been completed or become outdated, necessitating a rewrite of the measure. Unlike the simple majority needed to delay the bond, revising the measure would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Such a super-majority is especially difficult (some would argue virtually impossible) considering the contentiousness of the measure as well as the political climate in the Capitol, though the latter could be impacted by November’s election.

Sadly, this means California’s water future, which does need an infusion of resources for sustainable water planning, is still very much in doubt. As daunting as this challenge is, PCL will do all it can to work with the Legislature, the Administration and our partner to re-craft and pass a Water Bond that invests in water reliability as well as ecosystem protection and enhancement.