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We've Heard this Song Before...

by Tom McClintock [politician] 10/8/07

The legislature will return today to consider Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to borrow a whopping $9 billion for water projects. I don’t question the dire need for adding additional water storage: California has not added a single major dam since completing the New Melones in 1979. In the meantime, the state’s population has grown from 23.3 million to 37.9 million people. California now stores less than one year’s water consumption in the entire system, which is why the prospect of even a moderate drought is so ominous.

But here’s the problem: since 1996 California voters have passed SIX bond measures totaling $16.6 billion that ALL promised to enhance the state’s water supply. Just since Gov. Schwarzenegger took office, the state’s ANNUAL general fund debt payments have sky-rocketed from $2 billion to $7 billion – more than we spend for the entire University of California. Before an additional $9 billion is heaped on the state’s now staggering debt burden, maybe its time we demanded to know where the $16.6 billion that we’ve already authorized has actually gone. Here’s a quick stroll down memory lane:

Tom McClintock

Mr. McClintock is an expert on matters of the State budget and fiscal discipline. He is a Senator in the California State Legislature and ran for Governor in the 2003 recall election. His valuable website is found at http://www.carepublic.com/blog.html[McClintock index]

In the general election of 1996, voters approved Proposition 204, the “Safe Clean Reliable Water Supply Act,” a $995 million bond that promised to “increase water supplies.” “Safe drinking water is something most of us take for granted,” proponents wrote in the ballot pamphlet that year. “But the truth is, unless we act now, California's residents, businesses and farms face a future of chronic water shortages and potentially unsafe supplies.”

In the 2000 primary election, voters passed not one but TWO water bonds. Proposition 12, the “Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2000” borrowed $2.1 billion based on proponent’s assurances that “This measure is vital because it protects the lands that give us clean water." Voters also passed Proposition 13, the “Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, Watershed Protection and Flood Protection Bond Act,” for an additional $1.97 billion of bonds after proponents warned them (in language almost identical to the arguments for Prop. 204) that “We can’t take our drinking water for granted. Water officials predict major shortages and say existing programs won’t fix the problem.”

Two years later, voters approved Proposition 40, the “California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks and Coastal Protection Act of 2002” that borrowed $2.6 billion. Proponents promised (in words exactly the same as the empty promise they made in Proposition 12): “This measure is vital because it protects the lands that give us clean water.”

Just eight months after adopting Prop. 40, voters authorized an additional $3.44 billion of water bonds by passing Prop. 50, “The Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002.” This time, supporters promised: “California’s population is expected to nearly double in the next forty years. Proposition 50 funds state and local water system improvements needed to keep up with population growth by providing new water supplies and supporting water conservation programs.”

And in the last election, voters shelled out $5.4 billion more with the “Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act Of 2006. This time, supporters promised: “Prop. 84 will increase the reliability of California’s water supply.”

The only thing that seems to change is the size of the bonds. CRO






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