Our View: Water bond delay is really an opportunity

July 13, 2012 

The Legislature wisely decided to push a proposal for a massive state water bond to the 2014 ballot. It is unlikely that voters this November would be willing to approve an $11 billion water bond, especially when there will be at least two tax measures up for consideration at the same time.

While we support a bond measure to fix California's crumbling water infrastructure, we are concerned because the current measure was porked up with wasteful goodies to win votes in the Legislature in 2009. Lawmakers were able to include their pet projects because a two-thirds vote was needed to put the bond on the ballot. Everyone got a "water project" instead of this being a bond to meet crucial infrastructure needs. But the finances of the state have deteriorated significantly since then, and the voters have become finely attuned to spending that is less than essential.

We hope lawmakers don't just delay this measure, but use the next two years to rework it to remove unneeded projects.

This measure is too important to the future of California to be bogged down with projects that make it an easy target for critics. Last week, the Legislature delayed the water bond measure for two years on a bipartisan vote. Legislators from our region supported the delay, with the exception of Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, who has opposed the bond all along, wanting a totally new version.

A slimmed-down water bond must be a targeted measure that offers fixes for the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and provides adequate water for farming and environmental purposes. It's time to stop the divisive argument that California's water can't be shared for both purposes.

The importance of solving the delta's environmental and structural problems must be at the center of the bond measure. The estuary is pivotal to transporting water to Valley farmers and providing drinking water for almost 25 million California residents.

We have always supported a balanced approach to water policy in California. It must protect the environment while increasing water deliveries to agricultural users and Southern California residents. To meet those needs would be a real investment in California's future.

This is the second delay for the water bond, which was supposed to be put before voters in 2010. Lawmakers pushed it back to 2012, hoping the economy would have improved enough for voters to support it at the ballot box. But another two-year delay is needed for the same reason.

The change to 2014 was backed by major supporters of the bond, including farm groups and water agencies.

The Legislature has another chance to get this right. Improving the water bond would give it an even better chance of passing in 2014.

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