California lawmakers pass $7.5 billion water plan

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, center, applauds after the Assembly approved a $7.5 billion water bond measure,  Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif.  The compromise bill was reached between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders and will replace a water bond measure that is currently on the November ballot. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, center, applauds after the Assembly approved a $7.5 billion water bond measure, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. The compromise bill was reached between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders and will replace a water bond measure that is currently on the November ballot. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Driven to action by the state’s historic drought, California lawmakers on Wednesday voted to place a $7.5 billion water plan before voters in November.

The measure marks the largest investment in decades in the state’s water infrastructure and is designed to build reservoirs, clean up contaminated groundwater and promote water-saving technologies.

It replaces an existing water bond that was approved by a previous Legislature but was widely considered too costly and too bloated with pork-barrel projects to win favor with voters.

After weeks of difficult negotiations, the ballot measure sailed through both houses of the Legislature: 77-1 in the Assembly and 37-0 in the Senate. Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks was the lone dissenting vote.

Gov. Jerry Brown had scheduled a signing ceremony for later in the night to formally put it on the ballot.

The evening votes in the Assembly and Senate came after the Democratic governor and lawmakers from both parties were finally able to clear their main hurdle, a disagreement about how much money should be spent on new reservoirs and other storage projects.

A state with a population that exceeds 38 million and an agricultural industry that feeds the nation has been struggling to meet the increasing demands for water after three dry winters.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said water was something Californians had taken for granted before the three-year drought forced water rationing and an unprecedented hit to the state’s farmers.

“The need is so great in California,” he said, referring to the wide margin of support the spending measure enjoyed in the Legislature. “The time is now.”

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