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Breaking his silence on the push to get a new water bond on the Nov. 4 ballot, Gov. Jerry Brown spent Tuesday meeting with lawmakers and laying out his priorities.

Brown met with Republican and Democratic leaders from both the Senate and the Assembly, sources said, and the governor offered two numbers as starting points for negotiation -- a bond worth about $6 billion overall, with $2 billion in storage. The governor's office would not comment.

Both numbers fall considerably short of proposals moving through the Legislature. A $10.5 billion bond proposal that stalled in the Senate on Monday, for instance, would allocate $3 billion for surface storage. Democrats described those storage dollars as a concession to Republicans pushing to expand California's water supply.

In 2009, legislators and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hammered out a deal for a an $11.1 billion water bond. The measure has since been pushed back twice, and many lawmakers now cite its size in insisting it would fail if put before voters.

With a severe drought placing water at the center of public consciousness, a leaner bond on the upcoming November ballot has become a priority for multiple legislators. But Brown has declined to weigh in, consistently deflecting questions about the need for a new bond.

As yesterday's Senate hearing proved, the water bond debate could come to engulf one of Brown's signature proposals.

The governor's controversial project to build water tunnels under the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta also calls for spending on habitat restoration, and flowing through the debate over a water bond has been the question of whether bond money could pay for environmental rehabilitation, potentially easing the way for the tunnels.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters outside the Governors Mansion on election night in Sacramento on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.


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