Gov. Brown on water bond compromise: ‘We’re very close’

Toni Atkins, Jerry Brown, Darrell Steinberg
Gov. Jerry Brown, center, listens to the discussion of a proposed water bond measure during a meeting with lawmakers and interest groups at the Capitol on Aug. 12.
(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Warning that there is only a narrow window of opportunity to act on water, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he and lawmakers were “very close” to a deal on a new water bond.

The governor touted his latest proposal, rolled out Monday as “a very balanced, integrated plan. It’s not a grab bag,” Brown said at a meeting convened at the Capitol on Tuesday.




An earlier version of this post said that among the groups attending was Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Water District. The group was the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.


He has yet to sell Republicans on the plan, however, and they hold crucial votes to get the two-thirds needed to put the new bond measure on the ballot.

Republicans and some Central Valley Democrats expressed concern that the plan put $2.5 billion toward water storage, such as reservoirs and dams; they say $3 billion is necessary to finance two major building projects.


Brown cautioned that if a deal is not reached now, a new chance to act on water is “not a couple years later, it can be many decades later. And who knows how the world looks then.”

Time is ticking for Brown and the lawmakers to agree on a pared-down bond to replace the $11.1 billion measure currently on the November ballot. Brown has blasted the old bond, originally written in 2009, as “pork-laden” and has sought a dramatically smaller measure to pay for the state’s water projects.

On Monday, the governor and Democratic lawmakers introduced a new plan and lawmakers voted to delay the printing of voter guide materials by two days, in hopes of approving a measure by then. A replacement measure must pass by Wednesday to appear in the voter information packets.

The proposal unveiled yesterday carries a $7.195 billion price tag--$6.99 billion in new bond funds and $200 million coming from unused administrative funds in two previously passed bonds.

On Tuesday, Brown was joined by Democratic leaders--Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego--as well as the chambers’ respective lead lawmakers on water issues.

Atkins, speaking on the possibility of passing a bond, said “we’re not there yet. I’m optimistic we will get there.”

“With this kind of coalition and this kind of compromise and ability to do the right thing for the state, I think we will get there,” she said. “But the next 24 to 48 hours are critical.”

Also in attendance was an array of key interest groups, ranging from agriculture organizations such as the Western Growers Assn., water
managers including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy.


“What’s most noteworthy here today is the breadth of support from stakeholders who have disagreed on the variety of water issues not just for years but for decades,” Steinberg said.

Not present: Republicans.

Republican leaders had separate meetings with Brown Tuesday morning. Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) said the governor’s recently released proposal “still lacks sufficient water storage funding, and it does no good to build half a dam.”

The plan was also coolly received by some environmentalists, who worried that the plan could pave the way for Brown’s controversial plan to bore two enormous tunnels below the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to move water to Central and Southern California.

While Brown has indicated he wants a bond to be “tunnel neutral,” some Delta interests say the $137.5 million designated for ecosystem restoration in the area could help satisfy environmental requirements for the tunnels’ construction.

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