California Water Bond Postponed Yet Again, Victim of Politics

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A crucial $11.1 billion California water bond measure has been postponed again by the legislature, a sad result of cynical election year maneuvering and pork barrel politics. The water bond was originally scheduled to be voted on in 2010 but will now be on the 2014 ballot, assuming it is not tabled yet again.

The California water bond took ten years of negotiating before the California legislature was able to pass it by the required two-thirds majority. As you might expect from such a process, the bill is so convoluted and filled with pork barrel goodies for those who finally voted for it that even grizzled California legislators find it embarrassing. But instead of re-negotiating it, they used its awfulness as a reason to kick it down the road two more years unchanged.

“We can’t open this damn thing up again. To open it up would take us another 10 years to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto.

While the Senator certainly has a point, he also shows, if inadvertently, just how poisoned and deadlocked politics is in Sacramento. This is water we’re talking about. The citizens of California deserve and need safe and reliable supplies of water, but the endlessly squabbling California legislature is unable to provide leadership and consensus on this vital issue.

California Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown did not want the water bond on the November ballot because they are pushing a sales and income tax increase and fear a big bond issue will scare voters from voting for new taxes. This is the very same legislature that just approved spending over $9 billion for the first leg of the high speed rail, with no clue where the remaining $60 billion or so to complete it will come from or if high speed rail will ever turn a profit.  Yet they cynically boot desperately needed water infrastructure repairs and upgrades off the ballot so their pet measure might pass. This does a huge disservice to California.

The vast bulk of water for southern California and Central Valley agriculture comes from the Sacramento Delta. Its levees and infrastructure are badly in need of repair. This is not something that can be ignored because it is politically inconvenient. This is also true for water supply reliability throughout the state. The bond measure, regardless of its flaws, attempts to address the crucial water problems of California. Our legislature owes it to the public to deliver a comprehensive water bond measure now.