ALAMEDA, Calif. — California lawmakers voted late Monday to remove an $11.4 billion general obligation bond measure from the November ballot, and delay it until 2012.
Supporters of the water bond sought the delay. They worried that voters would be inclined to reject such a massive spending and borrowing plan in the midst of a recession with the state battling a large budget deficit.
“Mindful of the current economic slowdown, I support the move to give voters more time to understand this critical investment and give the state’s economy more time to rebound,” Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, said after the passage of legislation to delay the bond.
Cogdill was one of the prime sponsors of the 2009 legislation that put the bond measure on the ballot in the first place. He noted that California’s $10 billion high-speed rail bond measure was delayed twice before reaching the ballot in 2008, when it passed.
Lawmakers approved the bond measure in 2009 after weeks of negotiations that culminated in an all-night session with a final vote that took place after five in the morning.
Monday was the last day lawmakers could tinker with the November ballot before the secretary of state’s office sends the official voter information guide to the printers.
Legislation to delay the bond measure cleared the Senate easily on Monday, but stalled for hours in the Assembly as supporters tried to line up votes.
The bill to postpone the bond measure needed a two-thirds vote for adoption.
In the end, around 10 p.m. Monday, the bill passed the 80-seat Assembly with the bare minimum of 54 votes.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supported the delay and is expected to sign the legislation.
The bond measure’s skeptics come from all corners of the political spectrum.
Environmentalists question its emphasis on reservoir construction; public employee unions worry that debt service on the bonds would erode general fund resources that could be used to pay their members; and some conservatives thought it to be too laden with pork projects that don’t directly advance the goal of improving the state’s water infrastructure.
Both Democrats and Republicans were on either side of Monday’s decisive vote.
Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, voiced skepticism about the measure as it was taking shape last year, questioning whether it was necessary to use the general fund revenue to finance so many water projects that lend themselves to a user-pay financing model.