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Brown Calls For New, Smaller Water Bond

Dept. of Water Resources

Aerial view of the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California. Behind it, the state's largest reservoir.

Dept. of Water Resources

Updated at 7pm: Governor Jerry Brown wants to scrap the $11 billion water bond scheduled for California’s November ballot and replace it with a smaller proposal of his own.

Six billion dollars. That’s what the governor says he’s willing to spend. Not $11 billion, like the existing bond; not $8 or $9 billion, like some of the proposals floating around the Legislature. Six billion. In an interview with Capital Public Radio, Brown put forth an argument of fiscal prudence for a state already $30 billion in debt.

“Whatever borrowings we do from here on out have to be very carefully thought out. And I believe a bond of $6 billion will get all that we need to get done in the next coming years but does not go overboard or try to spend more than we ought to at this point in time,” Brown said.

“A lot of people say, well, we’ll just throw more in. Well, you have to be careful, because the people are not in a mood for taking on big new spending obligations,” the governor said. “And if that’s what they conceive this bond to be, they may well vote no, and then you’ll have a big fat zero, which is a lot less than $6 billion or $8 or $9 billion.”


Brown’s proposal includes $2 billion for storage projects, like dams and reservoirs. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) declared in a statement that anything less than three billion won’t cut it. “California needs a minimum of $3 billion for desperately needed water storage and the Governor’s bond falls well short,” said Huff. “It would be a shame for this governor and Democrat leaders to abandon Californians in the middle of a crisis.”

But GOP Senator Anthony Cannella, a key swing vote, said he might – reluctantly – be open to a little less: “I think the $3 billion number is the number that really builds the improvements that we need. But I’m willing to look at that, and if everyone comes down, then I’m willing to come down as well,” he said.

The other big sticking point is which state agency would control the funding to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s ecosystem. The governor’s office has been trying to find a middle ground between Delta and environmental groups and water and agriculture groups.

“It has to be a reasonable bond. It has to have the support of the governor. It must be tunnel neutral, and he is very clear about that, and I support that strongly,” said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who represents the Delta.

Negotiators have until the end of next week to replace the existing bond on the November ballot.

CapRadio's Ben Adler talks with News10 about the governor's water bond proposal.

Original Story: California Governor Jerry Brown has broken his silence on water bond talks.

He’s opposing the $11 billion measure currently on the November ballot and proposing a $6 billion bond instead. 

Brown’s outline sets aside a third of the money for storage projects, such as dams and reservoirs.

Republican Senator Anthony Cannella says that’s not enough.

"It’s a great starting point but it’s clearly lacking, especially in the storage area," says Cannella. "He’s offered up $2 billion for storage and we really need $3 billion. So if we can get to $3 billion for storage, I think we’re there.” 

The governor’s office has spent the last several weeks looking for a middle ground between supporters and opponents of his Delta tunnel proposal. Brown calls his bond “tunnel neutral.”

Democratic Senator Lois Wolk says the biggest sticking point remains finding a state agency both sides can trust to manage Delta restoration funds.

"It has to be real collaboration – it can’t just be hollow," says Wolk. "The word can’t be hollow. There have to be actual requirements for consultation and for cooperation and for decision-making.” 

A deal must be reached by the end of next week.

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