Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Jun. 25, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 25, 2012 – 6:40 am

With the state budget more-or-less completed for the time being, Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators must turn to other business, particularly to three very big and very immediate issues – water, pension reform and the bullet train – that may be even more contentious than the budget.

What the politicians do has potential effects beyond the issues themselves by influencing the November election, particularly the fate of competing tax increases.

• Water – An $11 billion water bond was placed on the ballot back when the state’s economy was doing well, providing funds for upgrading the statewide water system, including a couple of new reservoirs and habitat improvements in the troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in support of a tunnel beneath the Delta.

However, the bond is loaded with pork, and Gov. Jerry Brown rightfully wants it to be slenderized and changed to make water users pay for more costs, rather than place new burdens on a deficit-ridden state budget. He’s also concerned that having it on the same ballot as his big tax increase could make voters less likely to pass the latter.

That said, removing it from the ballot would be a big step back in water policy, and without its proceeds, the tunnel project could be stalled indefinitely.

• Pensions – Brown has warned legislators that if they don’t reform public pensions, undoing some of the benefits that were expanded 13 years ago, angry voters will be less likely to endorse new taxes, but he’s been willing, so far, to let the Legislature deal with the issue.

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