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By Tim Hunt

The drought drives lawmakers to action

Uploaded: Aug 14, 2014

The ugly drought the state is enduring coupled with the reality that voters were scheduled to decide on a water bond finally moved the governor and Legislature to action this week.
Wednesday night, the governor signed a bill putting a $7.5 billion water bond on the ballot in place of an $11.14 billion bond that was put on the ballot in back in 2009. That has rightfully been described as bloated because lots of goodies were added for legislators to win (buy) votes in 2009. It has since been twice delayed and now is in the trash bin of history.
Earlier this week, the Legislature took action to delay the printing deadline for ballots so it could list a new water bond and the governor's constitutional amendment for a rainy day fund in the top two spots on the ballot for propositions. The governor and Democratic leaders also announced a deal for about a $7.2 billion bond.
By Wednesday afternoon, Republicans had chimed in support and the total climbed to $7.5 billion and easily won more than two-thirds approval in both houses.
It's important that the legislators managed to agree—the state is mired in its worst drought on record and utilizing a water system that was built for 20 million people (there were about 17 million residents during the 1976-77 drought compared to almost 38 million now).
It took quite a bit of pressure before the governor engaged and his involvement was critical to a solution despite polling that showed the public wanted action and was willing to pay for it.
Through the water negotiations, the governor maintained his penny pinching attitude—not a bad thing given the state's billions in unfunded pension liabilities to say nothing of the wall of debt that will take another three years to reduce at the current plan.
Brown extended that attitude to a proposed $9 billion bond for school construction and rehabilitation that sailed through the Assembly unanimously with bipartisan authors including Alamo Democrat Joan Buchanan. After the governor's office announced its opposition—despite Buchanan's willingness to amend the bill to lower the total debt—the bill was assigned to the suspense file in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Suspense files is where the leadership tucks away bills to die without forcing or allowing members to vote. If no committee action is taken to move the bill, it will languish there and effectively die.
Without debating the merits of another bond for schools—state contributions have been part of a triad of funding for new schools along with local bonds and developer fees—the governor's recalcitrance is interesting when compared with his unbridled financial enthusiasm for the stunningly expensive and unproven high-speed rail. In the budget deal in June, he convinced the Legislature to dedicate 25 percent of revenues from the state's anti-greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system to the high speed rail—questionable expenditure under the law.
The down payment for a line that will not be high-speed and will run from nowhere to nowhere in the San Joaquin Valley is almost $10 billion with a pie-in-the-sky guess at $68 billion for the system. Remember the Bay Bridge is about four times over budget at more than $6 billion.
I guess, it is just a bit too much to expect any consistency from the politician once known as Governor Moonbeam.