3: An $8.9 Billion Water Bond
What it would do:
Give the state permission to borrow $8.9 billion to fund watershed protection ($2.5 billion), water supply improvements including wastewater treatment ($2.1 billion), habitat restoration ($1.4 billion), groundwater management ($1.1 billion), flood protection projects ($500 million), as well as upgrades and repairs to traditional water infrastructure, like canals and dams ($1.2 billion).
What it would cost the government:
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state’s nonpartisan budgetary scorekeeper, paying back the bond with interest will run the state government an extra $435 million annually for the next 40 years on average. This is roughly equivalent to about one-third of 1 percent of the state’s current general fund—or a little less than what the state spent on its Department of Fish and Wildlife this year. The total cost of the bond is expected to be $17.3 billion.
Why it is on the ballot:
No, this isn’t déjà vu. On June 5th, California voters passed a $4.1 billion bond to fund water infrastructure improvements, as well as new parks. That proposition was placed on the ballot by state lawmakers in part to discourage outside groups from asking voters for even more money in November. And yet here we are. Unlike the June proposition, this bond is much bigger and its funds will be entirely dedicated to water projects.
Arguments in Favor:
From the Oroville Dam to groundwater depletion in the Central Valley to the Salton Sea, California faces no shortage of water woes. Yes, the state of California has borrowed big to fund water projects in the past. But bonds provide long-term, recession-proof, dedicated streams of cash, exactly what the state needs to upgrade and update its aging infrastructure.
Not only have taxpayers foot the bill in the past for big water bonds, we did it again in early June! And the state still hasn’t spent all of the money it borrowed in 2014 with Prop. 1. There are additional concerns about how the money will be spent. Why should taxpayers statewide pay for regional projects, like canal repairs, that are usually paid for by local water agencies? And maybe we shouldn’t be doubling-down on environmentally destructive projects like big dams anyway.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
League of California Cities
California Chamber of Commerce
Western Growers Association
Sierra Club of California