ALAMEDA, Calif. — An $11.4 billion water bond measure may be yanked from California’s November ballot.
One of its main supporters, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Tuesday that he’s in favor of delaying the ballot item for two years, because it may well fail if it goes before recession-battered voters this year.
“It’s critical that the water bond pass, as it will improve California’s economic growth, environmental sustainability and water supply for future generations,” he said in a statement. “For that reason, I will work with the Legislature to postpone the bond to 2012 and avoid jeopardizing its passage.”
Lawmakers signed off on the water bond measure in 2009 after years of back-and-forth debate over how to fix and modernize California’s aging system for delivering water.
Both chambers of the Legislature approved the bond ballot with the requisite two-thirds supermajority vote. However, critics of the proposed debt referendum say it was loaded up with unnecessary projects.
“Our politicians hatched this massive, fundamentally flawed, $11 billion water bond behind closed doors and loaded it up with billions of dollars in pork,” Deborah Davis of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water said in a statement last week.
The bond measure can be approved with a simple majority. But supporters appear to be worried that voters won’t be in the mood this fall.
So far this year, voters around the country have approved only 58.6% of bond ballot measures, the lowest level in years, although the bulk of the issuance volume considered in any year comes in the general election.
In 2009, voters approved 65.5% of all bond measures proposed, the lowest level since 2005, according to data collected by The Bond Buyer.
By the time November rolls around, California voters may have watched a long, drawn-out battle over the state budget, which may leave many wary of such a large bond issue.
“After reviewing the agenda for this year, I believe our focus should be on the budget — solving the deficit, reforming out of control pension costs and fixing our broken budget system,” Schwarzenegger said.
He noted that a $10 billion bond ballot to finance a high-speed rail passenger train system was postponed twice. Originally scheduled for 2004, it was first postponed to 2006, and then to November 2008, when it appeared on the ballot and won approval.
Schwarzenegger’s announcement came one day after the secretary of state’s office officially assigned numbers to the measures on the November ballot.
In addition to the water bond proposal, Proposition 18, there are nine other measures that qualified through the petition process.