Connie Conway

LOS ANGELES - As California lawmakers push competing water bond measures through the legislature, Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals, have decided to toss their hats into the ring.

Conway and Bigelow introduced Assembly Bill 2043 on Feb. 20, which would replace the existing $11 billion water bond scheduled to go on the Nov. 4 with a smaller $7.9 billion general obligation bond.

About $3 billion of the proceeds would be used for water storage, including potential surface storage projects, $1.5 billion would be for Delta Sustainability, and $1.2 billion for regional water supply reliability.

The remaining $1.1 billion would go toward water recycling projects and water treatment technology, $800 million for groundwater protection and water quality, and $395 million for drought relief, wastewater treatment, and safe drinking water.

"Real people are suffering through higher water rates, mandatory rationing orders and reduced water deliveries in part because the Legislature has failed to act for too long," Conway said in a statement. "Our proposal represents a realistic and fiscally responsible approach that will provide funding for water storage, Delta restoration, drought relief and other local water needs - and at a reduced cost to taxpayers."

The $11 billion water bond that is currently set for a statewide vote has received criticism for being too large and full of earmarks. Opponents say the measure would likely fail to garner a majority of voters' support.

The measure was originally scheduled to go on the 2010 ballot, but was postponed until 2012, and then postponed again until 2014.

Conway and Bigelow said their proposal, which does not include any earmarks, is an effort to address concerns about the current measure and still provide funding vital for water infrastructure projects statewide.

Their bond would provide funding to be awarded on a competitive basis to eligible projects throughout the state.

AB 2043 is co-authored by Assembly Members Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, Brian Jones, R-Santee, Eric Linder, R-Corona, Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, and Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita.

There at least six proposals to replace the $11 billion bond that are currently in the legislative process, the Fresno Bee reported Wednesday, ranging from $5.1 billion to $9.2 billion.

Each of the bills would need to pass both houses of the legislature and be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown before making it to the November ballot.

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