There are two realities with the current $11.1 billion water bond currently scheduled to appear on the November ballot as Proposition 43. One, the bond is too big and filled with pork. Two, even so, if it appeared on the ballot as is, it likely would pass.
Legislators are debating the size and content of the bond with time running out to replace the $11.1 billion measure that has already been removed from ballots twice before in 2010 and 2012. Given the state’s water situation there must be no more delays.
However, the battle over content continues. In a letter — posted interestingly on the his campaign website – Gov. Jerry Brown said he is concerned with too much debt and that his $6 billion water bond proposal would provide “for water use efficiency and recycling, effective groundwater management and added storage.”
Legislators have discussed water bonds in the $8 to $10 billion range. They battle over how much reservoir water storage, water movement and environmental protections should be included in the bond.
But the size of the bond won’t determine if the voters decide to support it. The reason is the drought.
Voters know about the drought. The fact that the state is suffering a record drought has been drummed home to the people of California. Electronic freeway signs most often used for traffic problem warnings now remind motorists of the drought and the need to conserve water. Word that overwatering comes with severe financial penalties has reached citizens who usually pay little attention to public affairs.
Most voters don’t dig into details of bond measures on the ballot or do the calculus on the cost of an $11 billion bond or one half that size.
The voters will consider a simple equation: to offset effects of a drought you need water. If a water bond appears on the ballot – no matter the size or content –and the voters think this is a way to help deal with the drought, they will vote Yes.
The recent PPIC poll noted 61% of likely voters said the supply of water is a big problem, while an additional 24% said it was somewhat of a problem. Asked about the $11.1 billion bond, 51% of likely voters said they would support it while 26% opposed. However, of those opposed only 8% said they would reconsider if the bond were a lower amount.
Apparently, the bond’s size matters little to many who would vote No.
Governor Brown is right to be concerned with the state’s debt situation while hoping to eliminate the obvious pork in the current bond such as bicycle trails that have nothing to do with water usage and supply. However, whether his $6 billion proposal is too low is a fair question because additional money is needed for storage to deal with future water shortfalls.
Time is running out. Because voters are aware of the devastating drought, if a more reasonable bond that can achieve the necessary two-thirds vote is not patched together to present to voters they will likely accept the only option offered them – pork and all.