Thumbs Down

By Jeremy B. White
Published: Monday, Jun. 23, 2014 – 9:02 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 24, 2014 – 7:53 am

With the governor’s controversial Delta tunnel project a key part of the debate, lawmakers on Monday failed to advance a leading Senate proposal to put a revised water bond on the November ballot.

The Senate voted 22-9 for the $10.5 billion borrowing measure, five votes short of the required two-thirds threshold, without any Republicans lending support. It marked the first floor vote for any of a crop of new water bond proposals circulating through the Legislature.

A withering drought has whetted Sacramento’s thirst for a new water bond. Lawmakers have introduced several water bond proposals intended to replace the $11.1 billion measure currently slated for the November ballot. The general consensus among lawmakers is that the larger bond, passed in a fall 2009 special session, would fail if put before voters.

Monday’s outcome cements the reality that the Legislature will not move a new ballot to the bond by June 26, the technical deadline for November ballot measures. Lawmakers have missed ballot deadlines in the past, however, and waived the law to put measures before voters anyway. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he hoped to complete work on a new bond before the July recess but conceded the effort could extend through August.

“It gets tougher the longer you go into the summer,” Steinberg told reporters.

As the field of potential new bond proposals has narrowed, Senate Bill 848 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, has remained the vehicle of choice for Senate Democrats.

In a weekend television appearance, in remarks to reporters Monday and on the Senate floor, Steinberg placed Brown’s proposal to build massive water conveyance tunnels under the Delta at the center of the water bond debate. Any link to the tunnels would doom a bond in the eyes of voters, Steinberg argued, brandishing polling to back up his point.

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