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Speaker Atkins: Water Bond Deal Has Stalled

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

There will be no California water bond deal this week at the state Capitol, despite hopes of
legislative leaders that an agreement could be reached before lawmakers go on summer recess Thursday.

In an interview with Capital Public Radio, Assembly Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego) blamed outside interest groups for blowing up negotiations to replace the $11 billion water bond currently on the November ballot.

“I’m incredibly disappointed,” Atkins said in the interview. “The stakeholders are really going to have to understand, if they hold out for everything that they want, they could end up with nothing – and I think that’s my biggest concern. We need parochial interests to take a back seat to the needs of the entire state. If one region gets undercut, that’s going to have economic and environmental repercussions in other parts of the state.”

Atkins specifically said water storage supporters and environmental groups that oppose money for dams won’t get everything they want.

“Storage is absolutely a part of our package, but it can’t be at the 2009 level, Atkins said. Other areas have taken a bigger haircut to help ensure that we find an overall way to get this bond passed,” Atkins said.

Her message to environmental groups: “There are opponents to dams – which is a piece of storage – that are gonna have to realize that some of the storage needs need to be part of the solution. So blowing up a water bond b/c it includes storage will actually sacrifice long-term environmental gains.”

Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) said the sides will continue to talk. You have to remember it took six years to get the last water bond passed. These things will take some time. We have a good framework, but this can not be rushed,” Conway said.

Sen. Steinberg already has his sleeves rolled up and is willing to keep working at it,” said a spokesman for Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Steinberg and his fellow Senate Democrats failed to pass a $10.5 billion water bond last week. The next day, Gov. Jerry Brown told legislative leaders he wanted a $6 billion measure. Atkins says Assembly Democrats had nearly reached consensus on an $8 billion bond before outside groups interfered.

“The outside interests have basically taken the time to pretty much get people who were on board before to hold out for everything that they could possibly get. Now the concern I have is that they may eventually wind up with nothing,” Atkins said.

The speaker says she still believes a water bond deal can be reached in August, but the interest groups will need to accept less money than they want.

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