News

Gov. increases his $1 billion levee bond to $6 billion in 2006

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has amended his levee and flood control bond to
include $6 billion in borrowing in 2006, up from the $1 billion he proposed
less than two months ago in his $222-billion infrastructure plan.

The change comes on the heels of a trip to Washington D.C. where
Schwarzenegger met with White House officials and members of California’s
congressional delegation to pressure for additional federal funding for the
state’s levee system.

The new $6 billion bond for levees and flood protection is a sign that the
administration may be pessimistic about the prospects of federal funding.
The governor’s original proposal included $1 billion in state bonds this
year, an additional $1.5 billion in 2010, $3 billion in federal funds and
$500 million in local money.

The governor’s office confirmed the changes to the bond and referred
questions to Sen. Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, who sits on the Senate Natural
Resources and Water committee and is carrying the governor’s bond.

“The governor and Sen. Aanestad are going to move forward with the
assumption that the federal money is not going to be there,” said Aanestad
spokesman William Bird. “If the federal money comes in great, but if it
doesn’t it is not going to shut the project down.”

While in Washington D.C., Schwarzenegger met with White House chief of staff
Andy Card to push for federal disaster declaration for California’s levees.
Schwarzenegger had declared a state emergency for some of the state’s levees
on Friday to speed repairs and allow the state to waive environmental
reviews.

The governor also met with House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Jerry
Lewis, R-CA, and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to press for
federal aid for the state’s levees.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Feinstein said that having the federal
government declare a disaster before the levees actually broke would be
“very difficult.”

Schwarzenegger said that though “we made our case” to the White House, he
was given “no assurances” of federal assistance. Schwarzenegger also met
with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who promised to tour
California’s levee system in the coming weeks.

Both Senate leader Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez were
critical of the governor’s failure to bring home any tangible federal aid
from his east coast swing.

“The governor’s bond proposal assumes a massive influx of federal funds, so
the Bush Administration could at least have given some sign that that is
even possible,” said Perata.

Nunez added that, “We are disappointed that he is returning to California
empty-handed. With California Republicans in control of six key
Congressional committees and with the Administration’s strong links to
President Bush and Vice President Cheney, we were hopeful the Governor would
have been able to obtain more than” a visit from Chertoff.

The governor is scheduled to meet with all four legislative leaders on
Wednesday to discuss the state’s emergency preparedness. The meeting, which
has been planned for a week, comes in response to a Feb. 8 letter by Senate
leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, asking the governor to convene the California
Emergency Council.

With the new amendments, the total size of Schwarzenegger’s flood control
and water bond would rise to $8 billion this year, and the total borrowing
in the governor’s infrastructure package would grow to $71.5 billion.


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