For most of the year, the Assembly and Senate versions of the water bond had floated between $6.5 billion and $7 billion. But the Senate measure suddenly ballooned to $10.5 billion this week. That’s just shy of the total cost of the 2009 bond measure that’s already slated to appear on the fall ballot. Most political observers view that 2009 bond as doomed because it's so expensive.
Steinberg said the increase was an attempt to win Republican support by spending more money a top GOP priority: reservoirs and other water storage projects.
“This bond ... is the last chance — and maybe even the last day — that they will ever see $2 billion of surface storage in a proposed bond on the floor of the state Senate,” he told reporters before the vote.
In addition to increasing California’s storage capacity, the latest version of the bond would authorize $3 billion for safe drinking water projects, including $100 million for local groundwater development plans. A separate $3.2 billion pot would go toward local wastewater treatment projects, water recycling efforts and other water quality infrastructure improvements.
The plan includes $1.3 billion for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — but no direct money for the controversial Delta tunnel project. That’s not to say a large chunk of that money wouldn’t ultimately end up going toward the tunnel plan. It’s just that it would first be routed to the Delta Conservancy, which would make the decision on how to allocate the funding.
Not Enough Support
But in a sign of how tough it is to corral two-thirds of lawmakers to vote for a big spending project like this, one Republican senator after another took to the floor to say they liked how the bond’s list of projects was developing — but not enough to vote yes.
San Joaquin Valley Sen. Andy Vidak was one of them. “This thing’s getting really really close,” he said, “and there’s a lot of great things in this.” He then voted no.
The measure came up five votes short. Steinberg says he’ll keep negotiating and try again. He’s set a goal of getting a new bond measure written by early July, when the Senate and Assembly leave Sacramento for their summer break.