Gov. Jerry Brown, pressing his case Tuesday for a smaller water bond on the November ballot, criticized the existing, $11.1 billion bond as “pork-laden” and “with a price tag beyond what’s reasonable or affordable.”
Brown has been pushing for a $6 billion bond since June, with $2 billion of that amount for dams and other water storage projects. The proposal he released Tuesday maintains those figures. It includes about $1.2 billion for statewide water habitat and watershed projects, $750 million for regional water reliability projects and $475 million for levee, flood protection and ecosystem projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
In a letter on his campaign website, Brown called his plan “a no-frills, no-pork water bond that invests in the MOST CRITICAL PROJECTS without breaking the bank.”
“Five years ago, state legislators and the Governor put a pork-laden water bond on the ballot – with a price tag beyond what’s reasonable or affordable,” Brown wrote. “The cost to taxpayers would be enormous – $750 million a year for 30 years – and would come at the expense of funding for schools, health care and public safety. This is on top of the nearly $8 billion a year the state already spends on bond debt service.”
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Brown’s letter serves as a marker of the governor’s position ahead of water bond talks in the Legislature this month.
Lawmakers returned this week from summer recess, and efforts to replace the existing water bond are at the top of their agenda.
There are sharp disagreements about how much money to allocate for dams and other storage and about how to address the Delta. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said in a written statement that a $6 billion bond “would ultimately be too small to meet the state’s dire needs.”
In addition to Brown needing to win over Democrats, revising the bond would take a two-thirds vote, requiring some Republican support.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, accused Brown of assuming an inflexible position on the water bond while promoting infrastructure spending on high-speed rail, a $68 billion project Brown supports.
“Under Brown’s plan, funding for surface water storage – essential to California’s long-term water needs – and other key water projects will be slashed,” Nielsen said in a prepared statement.