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Brown Opposes Existing Water Bond, Wants $6 Billion Replacement

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown has stayed publicly quiet so far on negotiations over a potential replacement to the $11 billion water bond currently set to go before voters in November. Now, just days before the Secretary of State's official Thursday deadline for legislative ballot measures to qualify, top legislative sources tell Capital Public Radio the governor is finally making his views clear.

The governor told legislative leaders in private meetings Tuesday that he opposes the existing water bond, which was negotiated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers in 2009, and wants a $6 billion bond instead.

The governor's office declined comment Tuesday, but Brown spokesman Jim Evans said in a statement Monday that "The Governor is concerned about ongoing debt service and its impact on future budgets."

Another crucial sticking point: how much money should be in the bond for storage projects like dams and reservoirs? The governor is saying privately that Republicans must accept less than their stated priority of $3 billion.

The meetings between Brown and legislative leaders come one day after Senate Republicans rejected a $10.5 billion proposed replacement bond from Senate Democrats. That measure does contain $3 billion for storage, but GOP lawmakers criticized a provision that would give authority on how to spend $900 million in Delta ecosystem restoration to a state agency called the Delta Conservancy, rather than the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) confirmed he met with the governor Tuesday but declined to offer specifics. “We appreciate the Governor’s direct engagement in this process, as he’s been silent until now.  All parties understand that time is short and discussions are ongoing; we believe a solution can be found that meets California’s immediate and long-term needs.”

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway's (R-Tulare) office reacted similarly, declining to give specifics but saying she met with the governor and is “happy to refocus energy into this important issue that must be addressed so voters have the opportunity to weigh in on a long term solution to our water infrastructure needs in November.”

Lawmakers officially have until Thursday to place measures on the November ballot. But that deadline could be stretched until the legislature adjourns for summer recess on July 3rd - or even, perhaps, until August.

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