Aug 05, 2003

Statewide Water Group Votes to Support Infrastructure Legislation

Prop. 53 Would Provide Needed Funding for State's Water Systems

The Association of California Water Agencies' (ACWA) statewide Board of Directors voted August 1 to support a constitutional amendment that would require a portion of the state's budget to be set aside for infrastructure spending. The proposal, ACA 11 (Richman), will appear before California voters as Proposition 53 in the October 7 special election, which will also determine whether Gov. Gray Davis will be recalled.

"California continues to experience rapid population growth that increases demand for infrastructure, including water storage and conveyance systems," said ACWA President Bette Boatmun. "Local agencies cannot finance and construct infrastructure totally on their own."

ACA 11 was approved by the state Legislature during the 2002 legislative session. It would generally require that infrastructure funds be allocated in specified amounts for transportation projects, higher education projects, park projects, water projects or projects preserving or restoring natural resources. Of the funds in each category, 50% would be available for state projects and 50% for local projects. Prop. 53 would provide pay-as-you-go funding of state and local infrastructure, including water facilities, from the state's General Fund. In doing so, the state would save interest and issuance costs associated with debt financing when using general obligation bonds.

California is the fifth largest economy in the world. Its economic engine cannot continue running without adequate, high-quality infrastructure. State infrastructure financing for water, wastewater and flood protection, among others, has previously occurred on a haphazard basis when the Legislature and the Governor agree to place general obligation bonds on the statewide ballot. More recently, special interest groups have proffered initiatives that bypass the legislative process and place bond proposals directly before the voters. ACWA believes the latter practice is dangerous because it fails to address infrastructure priorities while at the same time reducing the state's debt capacity.

Proposition 53 is needed to ensure that the state's five-year comprehensive infrastructure plan is funded and local facilities can keep pace with population growth and modernization needs. State General Fund dollars will be expended more efficiently. Additionally, the economic activity generated by the investment in state and local infrastructure will benefit the economy and the General Fund.

ACWA is a statewide non-profit organization whose 448 public agency members are collectively responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered in California for residential and agricultural use.