SACRAMENTO — Gov. 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 Monday scrambled Monday 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.
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"I'd argue few people would like to see this investment happen sooner than I would, but timing's everything. With a little more time, voters will understand how the well-being of our economy and the livelihood of our citizens rely upon having enough water to meet our state's growing needs, now and into the future," said Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, one of the bond's authors.
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 criticized state lawmakers Tuesday for failing to solve California's water crisis and said that, if elected, Whitman would push hard for the bond's passage.
Whitman's Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jerry Brown, has declined to take a position on the water bond, according to campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford.
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.
The money would go to cleaning up contaminated groundwater, boosting conservation, updating sewage systems and researching the possibility of building at least two dams to increase water supply.