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Updated at 1:16 p.m.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today affirmed a looming threat to veto a large bulk of the bills that have been sent to his desk unless lawmakers can strike a deal on a package of water bills.

"I made it very clear to the legislators and to the leaders that if this does not get done then I will veto a lot of their legislation, a lot of their bills, so that should inspire them to go and get the job done," he said at the end of remarks to the Association of Community College Trustees' Leadership Congress, which is meeting in San Francisco today.

Legislative leaders are scheduled to meet with the governor at 11:30 today to continue to work toward a self-imposed Friday deadline for reaching an agreement on the bills. Schwarzenegger, who has until Sunday to act on more than 700 bills that were sent to his desk at the end of the session, has been withholding action on the bills during the ongoing water talks.

The Bee's Matt Weiser has more on the bills and what is at stake in the negotiations here.

Update 1:16 p.m.: When walking into today's "Big Five" meeting early this afternoon, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg dismissed the governor's fresh veto threat as "a bit of a sideshow."

"It assumes that it takes the governor to encourage us to work harder on water. (We) couldn't be working any harder, actually, to try to get done," he said.

Steinberg went on to say that some of the 700-plus bills awaiting action provide services too crucial for the governor to reject them all with a blanket veto.

"When you look at the fact, for example, there are bills to provide billions of dollars to beleaguered hospitals, hundreds of millions of dollars to the most needy schools ... and that's why I think in the end, you can either take the bait, or you can just do your job, and in the end I think this governor will look at the bills on their merits," he said.

When asked about the prospect of Republican-authored bills being axed if an accord is not reached, Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth said water is the top priority.

"There's nothing more important than a water deal right now," Hollingsworth said. "The most important thing we can say to farmers, farmworkers, cities up and down the state is we're ready to provide more water for them, a clean reliable supply."


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