Dems offer water bond for ballot; GOP decry plan

SACRAMENTO — Assembly Democrats today unveiled a $9.8 billion water bond proposal, but Republicans immediately rejected the plan and time is running out to get a measure on the November ballot.

The proposal is similar to the $9.3 billion bond pushed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has been trying to broker a water deal for two years. Both plans include $3 billion for storage — possibly including dams — and money for conservation, recycling and ecosystem improvements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

But there’s at least one key difference.

Democrats want to be able to oversee the water storage spending each year. Republicans, fearing Democrats will pull the dam money, are seeking a continuous appropriation, which is included in the governor’s plan.

“The don’t have a vote in the Republican caucus for this kind of a water plan, that’s a guarantee,” said Assembly Member Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, one of the lead water negotiators for Republicans.

But Assembly Member Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, who unlike most other Democrats has supported money for dams, said the plan represents a good compromise. It is “the best that we have seen to date and it has the best prospects of passage by the Legislature,” he said.

The deadline to get the bond on the Nov. 4 ballot is Sunday. However, some lawmakers believe that, in reality, they may have all of next week to strike a water deal.

The Democratic plan will be given an informational hearing on Monday. No vote is scheduled.

“If we finish work and are able to get it on the ballot this year, we will,” said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles. “But if not, we will continue to work diligently and hopefully get on a subsequent ballot.”