Governor Schwarzenegger Holds California Hostage to Peripheral Canal Water Bond

Governor Arnold "Fish Terminator" Schwarzenegger has told Legislative leaders that he wants a water bill package including a peripheral canal and dams on his desk by Friday night before he will act on 700 bills sitting on his desk. He is in effect holding the State of California hostage to his plan to build a monument to his gigantic ego, the peripheral canal, a budget-busting government boondoggle estimated to cost $23 to $53.8 billion to build, according to an analysis by economist Steven Kasower.

"Where are the adults in Sacramento?," asks Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta. "Yes, the Governor has told Legislative Leaders that he wants a water package on his desk by Friday night before he will act on the 700 bills sitting on his desk. But with a significant portion of the Legislature not in town, and members scattered all over the world presently, can that really happen?"

Schwarzenegger's strong-arming to produce a water bill on the Governor's desk by Friday night becomes even more absurd with the announcement that next Tuesday's Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife is cancelled. Is Schwarzenegger, the former action hero now transformed into the worst Governor in California history, trying to force the Big Five to agree on a canal/dams water package without any hearings or public input?

"You may have noticed in today's Assembly Daily File that the Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee was scheduled to hold an informational hearing next Tuesday, and you may have read about the continuing discussions on the water package in Big Five meetings," says Alf W. Brandt, principal consultant for the committee. "In order to maintain our focus on the discussions among the State's leaders, we decided to postpone any water hearings. We will keep you informed when further hearings are re-scheduled."

The "Big Five" is an informal institution of California state government, consisting of the Governor, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg, and Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth.

"In an e-mail sent by Steinberg to his caucus earlier this week," according to the Capitol Weekly, "Steinberg told Senate Democrats that the governor had suggested, but not formally asked, that the Senate pull back all bills from his desk until a water deal has been reached."

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) said Tuesday the governor's actions "have clearly crossed the line" and accused him of "extortion."

"The legal definition of that behavior is extortion," Torrico told the Capitol Weekly. "I am sending a letter to the Attorney General urging him to investigate the matter."

The Governor's water bond would indebt Californians for years to come to build a project that would economically devastate coastal, Central Valley and Delta communities dependent on Sacramento River salmon and other fisheries and family farms on the Delta.

According to a recently completed analysis by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EMBUD) on the proposed water bond and the Delta Water Package outlined in the latest Restore the Delta e-news alert, "The proposed $12B GO Delta bonds would result in debt service costs of nearly $780M/year to the General Fund for the next 30 years."

"The state budget deficit for the next three years is projected to be as much as $15 billion per year, and could climb even higher," the analysis states. "Even these dire projections may not represent the worst case, should California's economy continue to slide. The $780 million debt service burden would consume an increasing share of discretionary state funding, without counting the $1.3 billion annually that it will cost to service debt from resource bonds already approved since 2000. Which state programs are we willing to sacrifice to take on this massive, additional debt?"

"A realistic assessment of the total costs of the Delta legislation comes to $52 billion to $78 billion or more," the report continues. "This includes a series of huge capital projects: new Delta conveyance, construction of several new surface storage reservoirs, construction of other local water management and delivery projects, Delta levee strengthening, ecosystem restoration, and creation of three new state agencies and expanded state programs to prepare and implement the Delta Plan."

California is in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. How can Schwarzenegger and pro-canal legislators even consider proposing such an enormously costly and environmentally destructive project when the state budget for game wardens, teachers, health care for children and state parks is being slashed? What parallel universe devoid of logic, intelligence and common sense do the Governor and pro-canal legislators live in?

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