(Updated 9:20pm) Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers have signed off on a new water bond for the November ballot. The legislation approved Wednesday night removes the existing $11 billion bond and replaces it with a $7.5 billion measure.
Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg called the deal “the right bond at the right time” and credited lawmakers for reaching agreement.
“In this business, it is much easier to defeat something than to make something happen – and especially on a contentious issue like water, where it’s not just partisan but it’s also geographical,” Steinberg said.
Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway praised the $2.7 billion in the deal for surface storage projects like dams and reservoirs.
“Real storage means real water. There’s been many bonds in the past that always promised water. We believe this actually has it,” Conway said.
The bond also includes money for groundwater sustainability, safe drinking water and ecosystem restoration. It passed with just one “no” vote. As part of the agreement, lawmakers placed the new water bond at the very top of the November ballot as “Proposition 1.”
(Updated 8:25pm) The bond passed the Senate unanimously and passed the Assembly with just two "no" votes.
(Updated 5:30pm) Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) says the vote is now scheduled for 6:30pm. The delay does not, however, mean the deal is in danger.
(Updated 4:00 p.m.) California lawmakers will vote this afternoon to send a $7.5 billion water bond to the November ballot and remove the $11 billion bond measure that’s currently there.
The deal with Governor Jerry Brown was reached in principle this morning and refined during the last few hours. If approved by voters this fall, it would set aside $2.7 billion for surface storage projects like dams and reservoirs.
Democratic Senator Lois Wolk says the agreement will neither help nor hurt the governor’s twin tunnel project – a project bitterly opposed by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta voters she represents.
“This bond does a great deal of good for everyone and harms no one – and I can say that with confidence,” Wolk said.
Many Republicans will join Democrats in support of the deal, which needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber to pass.
Debates on the Senate and Assembly floors are scheduled to start at 5pm.
After days of tense negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers are nearing a deal on a $7.5 billion water bond measure that would replace the existing $11 billion bond on the November ballot.
It's not yet clear if the latest proposal has the votes to pass, but the Senate and Assembly are expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday afternoon whether a deal is reached or not.
Legislative sources tell Capital Public Radio the bond - if approved by voters this fall - would set aside $2.7 billion for storage. That's below the $3 billion pushed for by Republicans, Central Valley Democrats and water agencies, but above the $2 billion first proposed by Gov. Brown.
The measure also includes language intended to ease fears from groups that some of the bond money could be used to boost Brown's proposal to build two tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to send water to Central and Southern California. Not all environmental and Delta groups believe this language is truly "tunnel-neutral." But the deal has the support of Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who represents the Delta and has insisted on "tunnel-neutral" language in any final bond.
A spokeswoman for the Assembly Republican Caucus tweeted late Wednesday morning that negotiations are "going in the right direction" but Republicans "need more on storage and some clean-up on delta language."
Of the $7.5 billion in the new bond deal, $7.1 billion would be new borrowing; the rest would come from existing bond funds.
Negotiators face a deadline of midnight Wednesday to send a new water bond to voters and remove the existing one from the ballot. That's the deadline for the Secretary of State to start printing November election voter guides. The governor and Legislature already extended that deadline by 48 hours on Monday.
The bond needs a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber to pass. Assembly Democrats can approve it on their own if their entire caucus supports the measure. But Senate Democrats will need a handful of Republican votes.
We'll have more on this story throughout the day.
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