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Schwarzenegger calls for water bond delay until 2012

by Dan Bacher
"I will work with the legislature to postpone the bond to 2012 and avoid jeopardizing its passage," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today.

Photo: Governor Schwarzenegger delivering remarks at Virgin America’s first international destination celebration on June 29 just before he issued a statement calling for the removal of the water bond from the November ballot. From left to right: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson. Photo Credit: Peter Grigsby, Office of the Governor.
Schwarzenegger calls for water bond delay until 2012

by Dan Bacher

Fearing the overwhelming opposition to his $11.14 water bond (Proposition 18), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today said he will work with the Legislature to postpone the controversial initiative until 2012 to "avoid jeopardizing its passage."

“After reviewing the agenda for this year, I believe our focus should be on the budget -- solving the deficit, reforming out of control pension costs and fixing our broken budget system," said Schwarzenegger. "It's critical that the water bond pass, as it will improve California's economic growth, environmental sustainability and water supply for future generations."

Schwarzenegger noted that there are precedents for legislators delaying bond measures that they placed on the ballot. For example, state leaders in May 2004 passed a bill to delay voting on the high-speed rail bond until November 2006. They later delayed the vote again until November 2008, when it eventually passed as Proposition 1A.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who collaborated with Schwarzenegger to pass the water policy-bond package through the special legislative session last November without the input of fishermen, Delta farmers, California Indian Tribes, environmental justice communities and the majority of environmental groups, supported the Governor’s call to postpone the bond.

"Given the challenges currently facing California, I agree with the governor the water bond should be postponed,’’ Steinberg said.

The coalition working for the passage Proposition 18, the Alliance for Clean Water and Jobs, also agreed that the bond should be delayed until 2012.

"The water bond represents a truly comprehensive solution to fix the problems in the Delta, increase conservation and recycling, and expand the availability and quality of water supplies in every region of the state," said Jim Earp, co-chair of the alliance.

"We're confident that when presented to voters, they will approve the measure,” Earp claimed. “However, in light of the economic situation, we agree with the Governor and legislative leaders that the best timing for the water bond is in 2012. We support postponing the bond to 2012.”

Opponents of the water bond had mixed reactions to the Governor's announcement, ranging from wanting to keep the bond on the ballot so it is roundly defeated to asking for the complete scrapping of the bond.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, said she hopes that the bond will stay on the ballot so Californians can decisively vote it down – just like they did with the peripheral canal in 1982.

“The Governor led the campaign to create this bond, so he owns it,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “We hope the Legislature continues to support the bond as they did in November. Let California voters decide - we are confident that the voters will vote against the bond.”

“The Governor started this fight and we would like to finish it,” she emphasized.

“We call on the Legislature to scrap this $11 billion bond and start over,” said Jim Metropulos of Sierra Club California. “Even if it is delayed to a future ballot it will continue to be a bad back room deal, hatched in the dark of the night and loaded up with billions of dollars in pork projects to buy off votes.”

“Even if it is delayed to a future ballot, it will still mean billions more dollars in debt for our State,” Metropulos added. “Even if it is delayed to a future ballot, it will not address the key points needed to fix our water infrastructure or create sustainable water policy. Moving the initiative to another election will not lessen our opposition!”

“The legislature is considering pulling Proposition 18 off of the ballot because of a lack of support," said Elanor Starmer, Western Region Director with Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group that is part of the No on Proposition 18 coalition. "The problem is not the timing of the initiative, but the package itself. Californians will reject this massive bond regardless of when it appears on a ballot because it benefits corporate interests, not Californians."

The Governor’s statement was preceded just a few hours by the No on the Water Bond’s announcement that the California Teachers Association (CTA) State Council voted during its June meeting to oppose Proposition 18.

"We can't afford an $11 billion water bond," said David Sanchez, President of CTA. "With an already outrageous budget deficit, California can't afford an additional $1 billion every year, taking even more money away from our students, our schools and other essential services."

Proposition 18, the so-called Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010, would end up costing the state of California $22 billion once the interest is factored in.

The $11.14 billion water bond is part and parcel of the campaign by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and corporate agribusiness to build a peripheral canal and new dams, according to bond opponents. The canal is likely to result in the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales populations. The peripheral canal/tunnel would cost $23 billion to $53.8 billion at a time when California has slashed the budgets for teachers, game wardens, state parks and health care for children.

No on the Water Bond (Proposition 18) is sponsored by a coalition of consumer, education, environmental, fishing, farming, tribal, labor and social justice organizations opposed to the water bond.

Proposition 18 opponents include the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the River, Inter-Tribal Water Commission, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Planning and Conservation League, Restore the Delta, Sierra Club California, United Farmworkers Union and Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

Supporters of Proposition 18 include the Association of California Water Agencies, California Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Western Growers Association and Westlands Water District. Two environmental NGOs, the Nature Conservancy California and Audubon California, back the bond.

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