In recent weeks, work has begun in earnest in the Capitol to revamp the water bond that will go before California voters in November 2014.
Everyone seems to agree that the new bond needs to be smaller than the $11 billion bond currently slated for that ballot, which polling suggests is more than the voters are likely to approve. But agreeing on what the new bond should include is proving harder. Our advice? This is an opportunity to put California on a more sustainable water funding diet – with a balanced portfolio that relies less on periodic injections of general-fund-backed debt.
A bit of background on the current bond dilemma: From 2000 to 2006, California voters approved six general obligation bonds for water-related purposes, totaling more than $23 billion (in today's dollars). This is nearly three times as much as the sums approved in the preceding 30 years, and it translated into generous state programs to support local water, wastewater, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and parks. By the time the Legislature approved the proposed $11 billion bond in late 2009, water managers had gotten used to a steady stream of funds, and a new bond was needed to maintain it.