Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown, legislative leaders meet on California water bond

As California nears a new legislatively imposed deadline for putting a revised water bond on the November ballot, Gov. Jerry Brown met with legislative leaders and several prominent interest groups to push for a deal.

On Monday, Brown and legislative leaders floated a new $7.195 billion measure and delayed printing voter guides that, as of now, would include an old $11.1 billion measure most lawmakers view as untenable for voters. Legislators have been striving for much of the year to find a replacement for the borrowing measure, which lawmakers approved in 2009.

A vast array of interest groups converged on Brown’s office Tuesday morning to project unity on the latest proposal, among them labor unions, environmental groups, agricultural interests and large water entities like Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District.

Flanked by the Democratic leaders of the Senate and the Assembly, Brown said all sides were approaching a compromise.

“We’re very close,” Brown said. “This is a very balanced, integrated plan,” he added. “It’s not a grab-bag.”

Despite the fact that some Republicans will need to sign on to a new bond, no Republicans were among the legislators gathered around the table. Representatives for the Republican leadership said they had not yet signed on to the new bond proposal, citing the need for more money for surface storage than the $2.5 billion in the latest plan.

“It does no good to build only half a dam, said Peter DeMarco, a spokesman for Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. “As far as this meeting goes today we continue to have discussions with the governor and his staff. I think everyone understands that time is of the essence. The clock is running.”

Senate President Pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said that the slimmed-down bond – higher than the $6 billion target Brown stressed but still far lower than the $10.5 billion offer Senate Democrats brought to a floor vote – would require competing interests to adjust their demands.

“We need the Republicans, there’s no question about it,” Steinberg told reporters after meeting with Brown, but “the fundamental facts are that we have a smaller bond, so a smaller bond means that all of the important investments have to have a smaller dollar amount.”

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