California Water Bonds Getting Another Look
As you remember, in 2009 an $11.14 billion water bond and policy package was negotiated and signed by the legislature. The ballot measure was postponed on two occasions due to polling data that showed it would be too close to call on whether the bond would be passed by California voters. With a fragile economy voters struggled with the huge dollar amount of the bond.
The water bond is now set to be on the November 2014 ballot so lawmakers are now giving it another look. Since the last water bond deal was reached the majority of the members in the legislature are new and t Governor Brown has made water one of his priorities.
The 2009 water bond was to be placed on the 2010 ballot. The Safe, Clean, Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010 would be a general obligation bond that would provide funding for water infrastructure, ecosystem restoration and other water supply projects in California. The bond would fund water improvements associated with Delta conveyance, regional funding for water-related projects, watershed and ecosystem restoration, groundwater storage and clean-up, drought relief, and water conservation. The bond was considered a comprehensive fix to California water issues.
During a July 2nd Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife committee hearing Assemblyman Anthony Rendon outlined the principles for developing a water bond that had been agreed upon by the working group. The working group, composed of Assembly Democrats, was selected by Speaker Perez and led by Assemblyman Rendon.
The fundamental question is whether or not the voters will pass the bond. Not only does the bond need a two thirds vote of the legislature, but it also needs a majority of California voters. The effort underway is to lower the overall price tag of the bond to make it more appealing to voters and Assemblyman Rendon has committed to a “fundamentally different process”. Here are several of the priorities:
- Protect existing California water rights, including area-of-origin protections
- Protect the Delta
- Increase regional self-reliance
- Expand water storage options, including surface, groundwater and stormwater
- Restore the health of watersheds
- Repurpose currently authorized unspent funding
In addition to developing the priorities for a new water bond the workgroup has also set guiding principles to assure how the bond money is spent. These include:
- Prohibiting earmarks to specific water projects
- Making investment decisions on a regional basis through integrated regional water management plans
- Setting performance indicators to show progress on water bond investments
- Requiring beneficiaries to pay for their benefits, while the public pays for public benefits
- Acknowledge the state’s needs for infrastructure investment in all areas, including education and transportation, and crafting a bond that authorizes a “reasonable” amount for water needs.
This gives some guidelines to start discussion on how to trim down the water bond. Outlining principles and assuring funding accountability is a good first step. Water leaders will now provide comments on the principles that have been put forward by the workgroup. It appears that the workgroup will not be “looking back” at the previous water bond, but instead looking forward to the priorities of Californians.
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