PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: water

Skelton: California water bond needs to be boiled down

George Skelton says that the issue of California's $11.1-billion water bond has largely fallen by the wayside

SkeltonBack in July, Gov. Jerry Brown promised he would tackle the perennial issue of California's water supplies.

"I'm going to get this done," he said. "All right? We are not going to sit here and twiddle our thumbs and stare at our navel."

However, George Skelton says in his Monday column that the issue has largely fallen by the wayside. Brown spent much of the summer and the fall promoting his tax-hike plan, Proposition 30. His primary focus since taking office has been balancing the state's budget.

Brown needs to figure out what to do with a $11.1-billion bond for improving water infrastructure, which still needs to be put on the ballot for a vote.

The problem, Skelton says, is trimming all the pork out of the bond, which has become laden with pet projects. He says state officials need to find a way to trim it down to only the crucial projects before putting it to a vote.

All of Skelton's columns are here.

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Lawmakers want to change Proposition 13

Rural counties seek bigger share of prison money

New Assembly members already eyeing seats in Senate

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown works in the courtyard outside his Capitol office. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California Legislature votes to postpone water bond to 2014

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Deciding an $11-billion water bond measure is ill-timed and too fat, the state Senate voted Thursday to  pull it from the November ballot, delaying it until 2014. The Assembly was expected to finalize the decision later Thursday or Friday.

[Update, 3:19 p.m. The Assembly later approved the bill to delay the water bond and sent it to the governor]

Democratic legislators worried that asking voters in November to approve massive new debt to improve the state’s water system would jeopardize Gov. Jerry Brown’s $8-billion tax measure on the same ballot.

"We are faced with a tax levy in November. It would be disastrous to have it (water bond) on the ballot,'' said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis). This is the second time the measure was delayed. It was originally set for the 2010 ballot.

Lawmakers worried that the water bond measure might be rejected on its own because of criticism by Wolk and others that it is too large and full of projects that have been criticized as having little to do with improving water quality.

Wolk voted for the delay but called for the bond to be revamped. She criticized projects including economic development projects, a water-taxi service at Lake Tahoe and the construction of water education centers.

"It  remains pork-filled and untenable," Wolk said. "It truly should be repealed."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) agreed that the bond should be scaled back but said it's so large in part because it had to be expanded to get the two-thirds votes in 2009 to put it on the ballot. "One person's pork is another person's regional water solution,'' Steinberg said.

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— Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Water roars from the gates of Folsom Dam, a major water-storage facility in California. Credit: AP Photo / Bob Galbraith

Clean-water bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday he has signed a cluster of bills aimed at giving Californians better access to clean water.

One of the measures, AB 1292, will allow a state agency to sell revenue bonds to help pay for improvements to drinking-water systems throughout California.

Another, AB 1221, will allow state water-pollution cleanup funds to be provided to a nonprofit group and Native American tribe.

AB 938 expands the information required to be provided in languages other than English in public notices when water systems fall short of quality standards.

"The bills I have signed today will help ensure that every Californian has access to clean and safe sources of water," Brown said in a statement. "Protecting the water we drink is an absolutely crucial duty of state government."

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

PolitiCal Roundup: The problem with propositions

-- The Economist turns its trenchant eye on California dysfunction. The state's enthusiasm for initiatives has created, in essence, two competing governmental branches -- voters and legislators, the magazine argues. In the end, no one is accountable and "schools have suffered the most."

-- A Republican congressman from California sponsors a bill to exempt Central Valley water projects from federal environmental regulations. The bill is probably not going anywhere, but highlights growers' yen for more irrigation water, faster.

-- And on a slow news day in Sacramento, a look at what poverty really means in California from the Contra Costa Times: early death. The paper parsed life expectancy in Bay Area ZIP Codes earlier this year and found that, on average, people in the best neighborhoods live an astonishing 15 years longer than those in the worst.

First Take: Republicans hold on in key state Senate race. Jerry Brown's use of state plane gets a closer look.

Republicans had a big night Tuesday, holding on to a pivotal Central Coast state Senate seat as Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) defeated Democrat John Laird in a special election.

Michael Mishak looks at Jerry Brown's use of a state-owned plane while he has served as attorney general.

Carly Fiorina took a harder line against a mosque in downtown Manhattan during a campaign stop in Sacramento on Tuesday.

Michael Hiltzik looks at a suspicious water deal in the Central Valley that is now the subject of a lawsuit.

In addition to big salaries, the city of Bell also offered employees as much as $900,000 in loans.

Get the latest from California politics. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento


First Take: Bell residents criticize Whitman. Reviewing Brown's jobs record

Bell residents slammed Meg Whitman for comparing Jerry Brown's tenure in Oakland to their city's current salary scandal.

Marc Lifsher reports jobs data shows Jerry Brown has the strongest record of any of the five most recent California governors when it comes to creating jobs as a percentage of national job growth.

George Skelton wants pork projects cut from the $11 billion water bond.

Capitol Weekly looks at the coming fight over redistricting.

Get the latest from California politics. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter.

First Take: Water bond delayed. Judge says no to furloughs.

A judge has blocked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to implement furloughs for state workers until the budget is passed.

Lawmakers voted Monday night to move the water bond off the 2010 ballot.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) is accused of three ethics violations for allegedly helping a bank with ties to her husband.

A group of progressive economists say Meg Whitman's economic policy proposals would make the state's economic troubles worse.

Whitman on Monday accused Jerry Brown of Bell-style mismanagement while he was mayor of Oakland.

Get the latest headlines from California politics. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento


First Take: Poll shows anger at Congress. Water bond in limbo. To tax or not to tax?

George Skelton says voters view Meg Whitman's voting record and Jerry Brown's age as liabilities.

A New Field Poll shows Californians have some of that voter anger directed at their Congressional incumbents.

Some environmental groups are trying now to keep the $11-billion water bond on the November ballot in hopes voters will reject it.

As oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, the politics may have shifted on plans to tax oil production in California.

Get the latest headlines from California politics throughout the day. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Pérez remains noncommittal about water bond delay

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) don't appear to agree on much these days. But they do agree that delaying a scheduled vote on the state's $11-billion water bond is a good idea and may be the only way to pass the plan.

Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), however, is not so sure.

Pérez said in an interview that he is open to talks about moving the bond off the November 2010 ballot and waiting until June 2012 to put the measure before voters. But he's not ready to give Schwarzenegger what he wants quite yet.

"I have to look at it," he said. "You see pockets in the Central Valley with unemployment close to 40%. So I have concerns about what the impact of a delay is."

The measure was placed on the ballot by the Legislature last year and can be moved off the November ballot with a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses.

Many capitol hands say Pérez's reluctance to commit to pushing for a delay reflects a major difference in the negotiating styles of the two Democratic leaders in the Capitol. Steinberg, a policy wonk by nature, supported the delay as matter of practical public policy. Pérez, however, appears to see a negotiating chip. The governor needs his support to delay the bond, and there may be an opportunity to use that as leverage for something else.

"This is a serious matter," Pérez said. "It's not one for rash consideration."

--Anthony York in Sacramento

First Take: Meg Whitman modifies her pledge. Schwarzenegger wants water bond moved

Meg Whitman modified the "no new taxes" pledge she took during the primary campaign.

Seema Mehta reports that the Whitman campaign is aiming at rank-and-file union voters, hoping to drive a wedge between workers and their union leaders. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked lawmakers Tuesday to take the $11-billion water bond off the November ballot.

As this week's deadline to have a state budget in place approaches, Gov. Schwarzenegger will join governors from across the country Wednesday to ask the federal government for more Medicaid funds.

The largest state employee union will hold a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday as leaders begin talks with the Schwarzenegger administration over a new contract.

-- Anthony York

Get the latest from California politics as it happens. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter.

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