Thursday, July 5, 2012

Senate Committee votes to delay water bond until November 2014

By: Dan Bacher
Photo of Delta residents protesting the water policy/water bond legislation before it was pushed through the Legislature by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in the fall of 2009. Photo by Dan Bacher
July 3, 2012 - The California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildlife voted 6 to 0 on July 2 to approve legislation that delays the controversial water bond until November 2014.

A.B. 1422 is authored by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and coauthored by Assemblyman Conway and Senators Fuller and Rubio. It is an "urgency bill" that required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass.

State Senators Pavley, La Malfa, Cannella, Fuller Kehoe and Wolk voted to re-refer the Legislation to the Appropriations Committee. No vote was recorded for Senators Evans, Padilla and Simitian.

The vote followed a motion by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to repeal the water bond.

"My first choice would be to scrap this bond altogether and start over," said Wolk. "It is still as unaffordable and pork-filled as ever. What California needs is a more sustainable proposal that focuses on our core needs while taking the state's fiscal limitations into consideration—a proposal developed with all stakeholders at the table."

"But if this bond is to be put before the voters, it is critical that it not be this November, when it would steal focus from the Governor's tax proposal. There is no greater priority than the state budget," Wolk emphasized.

Delta advocates have blasted the pork-laden $11.14 water bond for funding questionable "habitat restoration" designed to greenwash the construction of Governor Jerry Brown's peripheral canal or tunnel, an environmentally destructive and enormously expensive project to export more Delta water to southern California and corporate agribusiness.

According to a quote from coalition of water, business and corporate agribusiness interests in the Senate Analysis, "Although voters do agree that investments in water infrastructure and environmental restoration enhancements are needed, 2012 is not the year to pass a water bond. This is in part because of the current state of the economy. The key is to pass a simple bill to delay the bond to 2014."

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, responded, "The water bond is a tool to move forward with the Delta Reform Act of 2009. If the water package was doing what it was supposed to do, the voters would be happy to vote for the bond. But the bond can't move forward because it is filled with pork and won't solve California's water problems."

"The bond has a significant amount of money - over $3 million - set aside for 'restoration' of the Delta. Yet the DFG Director has admitted that he doesn't understand the link behind the proposed Delta 'habitat restoration' and the restoration of fish populations," said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Delta advocates say the water bond, by including funds for questionable Delta "restoration," will help clear the path for the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. They point out that you can't "save" or "restore" the Delta by draining it.

Governor Jerry Brown has called for a delay and changes in the bond, entitled the "Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012." Brown fears that the presence of the bond on the November 2012 ballot would make the voters less likely to approve his sales and income tax initiative.

If Perea's measure passes, it will be the second time the bond has been delayed. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in 2010, fearing defeat of the unpopular measure by the voters, delayed the vote from November that year to November 2012.

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