Business group lines up behind expensive California water bond proposals

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LOS ANGELES — California voters could be weighing water bond measures totaling $21 billion in 2018.

The California Chamber of Commerce came out in support of two of the measures that have a combined price tag of nearly $14 billion.

CalChamber supports a bond proposal from Gerald Meral, a former state water official, that would authorize $8.9 billion.

It would finance various infrastructure projects and fund improvements to water safety and quality, watershed and fisheries, habitat protection programs, water conveyance, groundwater sustainability and storage, and surface water storage and dam repairs. It also sets aside $200 million to repair the Oroville Dam Spillway.
CalChamber said it supports the $8.9 billion ballot measure because “it provides critical funding that will help create sustainable water management in the state."

The measure is still in the signature-gathering phase, as is a similar $7.99 billion proposal by environmental lawyer Joseph Caves that would award half of its funds to drinking water safety improvements, and the rest to ecosystem restoration, and state and local park projects.

The chamber didn’t opine on Caves’ measure, but said Meral’s $8.9 billion bond measure continues the work of Proposition 1, a $7.7 billion water bond measure approved by voters in 2014, which CalChamber also supported.

The California Policy Institute wrote in a Dec. 13 report that 86% of the Proposition 1 bond money has been appropriated.

The third ballot initiative, Senate Bill 5, introduced by Sen. Kevin de Leon, would authorize the issuance of $4 billion in bonds and is slated for the June 2018 statewide primary ballot. SB 5 would provide $1.27 billion in funds for water quality and supply and dedicate $2.83 billion for environmental protection and restoration.

The CalChamber Board voted to support SB 5 because the measure provides funds for groundwater cleanups that improve water quality, flood protection and repair, $250 million funds for clean drinking water and drought programs with $30 million available for grants in San Joaquin where many communities lack access to clean safe drinking water.

It also provides funds for parks in urban and disadvantaged communities, improves state park tourism, helps address the backlog of deferred maintenance at state parks in rural communities.

CalChamber says it represents one-quarter of the private sector jobs in California and includes firms of all sizes and companies from every industry within the state.

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