Capitol Alert

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With the statewide primary fast approaching, all eyes have been on candidates and measures going before voters June 8.

But with the general election still more than 170 days away, the battle over the $11.14 billion water bond that legislators placed on the November ballot has already begun.

"The war is on," said Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, after a Capitol press conference today to kick off the campaign opposing the bond.

A bipartisan group of legislators slammed the legislation as flawed policy that will throw California deeper in debt without providing a real fix to the state's water woes.

"This is a multibillion dollar boondoggle with 19th-century solutions for a 21st-century problem," said Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, a vocal opponent of the bond. "It just won't work."

Wolk and Berryhill were joined by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine; Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks; and Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville.

Bond supporters acknowledged they face an upstream battle in asking voters to approve more debt but said the bond is needed and long overdue.

"This is a difficult time to be talking to voters about anything that costs money, let's face it -- we're not trying to back away from that," said Jim Earp, the chair of the committee supporting the bond.

Earp likened the need for the bond to homeowners borrowing money to fix a leak in the roof. Without the big investment, the issue could lead to greater damage, he said.

"You have to take care of a problem and the way most home owners do," he said. "They don't have $20,000, or $30,000 sitting in a bank account to redo their roof. They go out and get a loan for it. We're basically talking about a bond measure that addresses critical water infrastructure that we haven't addressed in decades on ends. We cannot keep putting it off."

The campaign supporting the bond is expected to rake in big dollars, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapping into his donor circles to raise money in support of the measure.

Berryhill said he expected to see a number of organizations, including environmental groups, "step up to the plate" and join the anti-bond campaign in coming weeks.

"Clearly, the other side has been water on their side ... but I am a firm believer that when you are pushing the truth you can do it with much less money," he said.


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