By Robin Hindery (Associated Press)
Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday completed the process of removing an $11.1 billion water bond from California’s November ballot and delaying it for two years.
The governor signed two bills, one of which postponed the water bond vote until November 2012. The other delayed the terms of the nine members of the California Water Commission, which would have allocated some of the bond money.
Lawmakers on Monday scrambled to secure the necessary two-thirds votes in the Assembly and Senate to pass AB1260 and AB1265.
Bond supporters feared the state’s dismal economic climate would turn voters against the measure. They say the two-year delay will give them time to persuade Californians to support it.
Opponents had wanted the bond to stay on the ballot so voters would have a chance to reject it.
Schwarzenegger will leave office in January because of term limits, and responsibility for the bond will fall to his successor.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman had previously voiced her support for the bond – a stance that helped win her the endorsement of several major farm groups, including the Western Growers Association.
Her campaign on Tuesday criticized state lawmakers for failing to solve California’s water crisis and said that if elected, Whitman would push hard for the bond’s passage.
“As the next the governor, Meg will do everything in her power to make sure the bond wins voter approval,” said spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. “In the meantime, she would work hard to pressure the federal government to consider the economic harm of their policies restricting flows.”
Whitman’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jerry Brown, has so far declined to take a position on the water bond, according to campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford.
Asked whether Brown would push for the bond’s passage as governor, Clifford said it was “premature to talk strategy on a 2012 ballot measure.”
The water bond is intended to upgrade California’s vast water system, which was built decades ago when the state’s population was about half its current size of 38.5 million. Funds would be devoted to cleaning up contaminated groundwater, boosting conservation efforts, updating sewage systems, and researching the possibility of building at least two dams sought by farming interests to increase their water supply.