California Water Bond Pulled from Ballot – 2 more years

Well, there was some question as to whether it would happen or not but apparently little Johnny got his way so the $11 billion water bond initiative will be pulled from November’s ballot.

Good riddance… or not.

Many (myself included) would argue that we desperately need this bond to pass so we can start to address the chronic water problems that plague this state. And when I say ‘desperately need’ to do this, I’m not just whistling Dixie. The construction of additional storage damns is critical, the implementation of an alternative conveyance method (i.e. peripheral canal) should have been done 14 years ago. The water issue will have greater long term consequences on this state than unemployment and Prop 32 combined.

But sensing, probably with more prescience than he has exhibited for a long time, that this proposition would go down to defeat at the hands of voters this fall, Gov. Arnold requested that the vote be delayed for 2 years and placed on the ballot again in 2012 when, apparently, all the state’s other ills will have been resolved and voters will be in a better mood to pass this bill.

That’s a stretch. Facing another $19 billion budget deficit this year and the very real prospect of higher taxes to cover it, it was probably an accurate assumption that we wouldn’t be in the proper frame of mind to pony up to another $11 billion bond. But since our budget deficit seems to have become an integral part of our state’s dysfunction, what’s the likelihood that in two short years we will have licked that problem?

Every year the budget impasse seems to get worse. We’ve resolved past years budgets by raising a few taxes, cutting a few costs and simply kicking the can further down the road. Those defrayed bills will be coming due soon, if they haven’t already. Unemployment shows no sign of letting up, housing and tech aren’t going to rebound fast enough to save us, our Democratic legislators continue to chase jobs away at prodigious rates while ramping up hiring in the public sector – why should 2012 be so much rosier than 2010?

Then there’s the bill itself. What should have been a $6 or $7 billion proposal got larded up to $11 billion by the time it hit the floor. Why? Because to insure the votes needed to pass both houses and qualify for the ballot, deals were made. Everybody with an interest in the outcome, from our legislators to the Sierra Club to the public unions and water commission insisted on plugging in their pet project to insure their acquiescence. A few million over here for Delta research, a few million over there for the Salton Sea, a few more for endangered species, pretty soon you’re talking real money – another $4 or $5 billion of real money. Don’t think for a minute that the bills opponents would have let you forget that during the run up to the election.

And aside from my concern that our water crisis is still not being resolved, as passage of this bill might have at least initiated, I’m concerned about what it will cost us to pull it off the table. The report I read stated, “After some intense late-night vote wrangling, AB1260 and AB1265, the two bills necessary to pull the water bond off the ballot, passed the Senate relatively easily but ran into heavy opposition in the Assembly”. I’m not sure if ‘heavy opposition’ is a shot at Assembly Leader John ┬áPerez’ weight but Perez made sure everybody knew he was using this as a bargaining chip to solidify his none-too-subtle agenda. Perez, as you may be aware, is the newly anointed leader of the Assembly and thus far has exhibited all the tact and finesse of a bull at Pamplona. Be assured this marks a victory of some sort for him and if some new fee or tax emerges unopposed, you’ll know the price for Perez’ vote.

So another ‘teachable moment’ emerges from Sacramento. A badly needed solution to our state’s water crisis starts it’s humble journey only to have mountains of pork piled on it’s flanks by the greedheads charged with making it work. What may have been at least a beginning to resolving water issues has now become a victim of the same greedheads charged with making it work because they couldn’t get their acts together on the rest of their job (running our state). As one legislator put it – ‘Maybe we need to roll up our sleeves and work on a bond with more chance of success.’ I’m betting that if this bill does manage to be resuscitate in 2012, the cost will have bloated to $15 billion or more. And not one penny more will have anything to do with water. Welcome to California.

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