Water Bond: Where's the Common Sense?
Are they just hoping the economy comes roaring back so strong voters won't care about all the pork in 2014?
Jul 12, 2012
Our view: The unfortunate part about postponing the state water bond is that the problems aren't going away.
The state government has voted to postpone an $11 billion state water bond for a second time, hoping for a more receptive mood from voters in a couple more years.
With each postponement, however, voters have to start wondering: If the bond wasn't good enough to win voter approval two years ago, and isn't good enough now, why would it be any better in two years?
The bond isn't going to change between now and 2014, but government officials keep questioning the timing. In 2010, they thought the economy and the state budget deficit would prevent voters from approving an $11 billion bond.
This time, they worried that voters would see a multibillion-dollar tax increase and a multibillion-dollar water bond — then just say no to everything.
The state didn't want to jeopardize its beloved tax increase, so it took no chances. Legislators approved postponement of the water bond last week, and Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed the legislation putting it off until 2014.
While that makes sense, the more important fact is that improvements to the state's water delivery system need to occur now. We don't think this enormous water bond is the answer, and if voters reject it in two years, lawmakers will be back at square one. Several years of possible solutions will have flown by.
Legislators spent most of Arnold Schwarzenegger's last term in office figuring out how to lard up a state water bond with enough goodies so that they could convince voters in every corner of the state that there was a little something for everybody.
The problem with that scatter-shot approach is that the bond gets expensive very quickly, and the end result is a bunch of little things but nothing notable.
If you doubt that, try this little quiz: Name one substantial project, one benefit, from either of the two multibillion-dollar state water bonds approved in the past 10 years.
Can't do it? Didn't think so.
There are several good things in the 2014 bond. For example, there's money to do more environmental studies on two reservoirs, including sites in Colusa County. There's money for some badly needed projects in the delta. There's money to clean up contaminated groundwater.
But there are also handouts for water education, for buying land in the Los Angeles hills in the home district of the former Assembly speaker, and for bike trails at Lake Tahoe. How will any of that help our water supply?
Obviously, the bond can be improved. Legislators should use the bond's skeleton as a starting point for a new bond, figure out exactly what should be kept and discard the rest.
Better yet, if they can avoid bond funding and build bits and pieces a little at a time, without putting the state further in debt, that would be better still.
Make it a part of the annual state budget. It's just a matter of priorities.
Sadly, it takes a drought or a natural disaster for legislators to make water a priority. Let's hope we can avoid that.
Our View: Water bond delay is opportunity
Merced Sun-Star Editorial
The Legislature wisely decided to push a proposal for a massive state water bond to the 2014 ballot. It is unlikely that voters this November would be willing to approve an $11 billion water bond, especially when there will be at least two tax measures up for consideration at the same time.
While we support a bond measure to fix California's crumbling water infrastructure, we are concerned because the current measure was porked up with wasteful goodies to win votes in the Legislature in 2009. Lawmakers were able to include their pet projects because a two-thirds vote was needed to put the bond on the ballot. Everyone got a "water project" instead of this being a bond to meet crucial infrastructure needs. But the finances of the state have deteriorated significantly since then, and the voters have become finely attuned to spending that is less than essential.
We hope lawmakers don't just delay this measure, but use the next two years to rework it to remove unneeded projects.
This measure is too important to the future of California to be bogged down with projects that make it an easy target for critics. Last week, the Legislature delayed the water bond measure for two years on a bipartisan vote. Legislators from our region supported the delay, with the exception of Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, who has opposed the bond all along, wanting a totally new version.
A slimmed-down water bond must be a targeted measure that offers fixes for the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and provides adequate water for farming and environmental purposes. It's time to stop the divisive argument that California's water can't be shared for both purposes.
The importance of solving the Delta's environmental and structural problems must be at the center of the bond measure. The estuary is pivotal to transporting water to Valley farmers and providing drinking water for almost 25 million California residents.
We have always supported a balanced approach to water policy in California. It must protect the environment while increasing water deliveries to agricultural users and Southern California residents. To meet those needs would be a real investment in California's future.
This is the second delay for the water bond, which was supposed to be put before voters in 2010. Lawmakers pushed it back to 2012, hoping the economy would have improved enough for voters to support it at the ballot box. But another two-year delay is needed for the same reason.
The change to 2014 was backed by major supporters of the bond, including farm groups and water agencies.
The Legislature has another chance to get this right. Improving the water bond would give it an even better chance of passing in 2014.
The water bond is not on the Nov. 6 ballot. Here's a recap of what will be there:
• Proposition 30: Brown tax increase plan.
• Proposition 31: State budget changes.
• Proposition 32: Ban on payroll deductions for political contributions; ban on contributions to candidates from unions and corporations.
• Proposition 33: Car insurance rates based on driver's history of coverage.
• Proposition 34: Death penalty repeal.
• Proposition 35: Increased penalties for human trafficking.
• Proposition 36: Changes to the "three strikes" law.
• Proposition 37: Genetically engineered food labeling.
• Proposition 38: Molly Munger's tax increase plan.
• Proposition 39: Increases taxes on multistate companies to fund clean energy.
• Proposition 40: Referendum on state Senate lines.