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Gov. Schwarzenegger calls special legislative session
Urges action on water plan and health care

Bob Krauter, Capital Press 9/11/2007

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, urging action on critical issues of water infrastructure and health care reform, today called the Legislature into special sessions. Schwarzenegger, concerned by a recent federal court ruling that could cut water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta next year by as much as one-third, is urging action on his $5.9 billion comprehensive water package. In addition to pressing water issues, he also called the lawmakers to support comprehensive health care reform.

"These issues are vital to our state and the quality of life of all Californians," Schwarzenegger said in a news release. "I have met with the legislative leaders and I have no doubt that if we put in the extra time and effort - and if we have the will - we can achieve the results that the people of California expect and deserve."

After U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger ruled in Fresno Aug. 31 to cut water exports to protect threatened Delta smelt, Schwarzenegger said the decision "is further proof that our water system is broken."

The delta, which supplies water for 25 million Californians and 5 million acres of farmland, is the focus of a Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, which the Governor has charged with developing a Delta management plan. Recommendations from the group could come as early as next month.

Schwarzenegger's bond package, which stalled earlier this year in the state Senate, would invest $4.5 billion in new surface and groundwater storage, $1 billion for restoration of the delta and other projects, and funds for conservation and delta conveyance.

The prospect of reduced water supplies from the delta has prompted urban water agencies to prepare mandatory water conservation plans for 2008. Farmers, who depend on delta water supplies, are scaling back their planting intentions for next year.

Tim Quinn, executive director for the Association of California Water Agencies, said last week at a Capitol news conference, that the state is losing its ability to manage dwindling water supplies.

"While the judge's decision will last a year, this crisis is indefinite," Quinn said. "It will last until a comprehensive program, such as the governor has recommended, including conveyance fixes in the delta and until those physical changes happen, we are going to be in a state of serious crisis in managing the state's most important resource."

Schwarzenegger's call for a special session is also intended to deal with health care reform. Democrats support Assembly Bill 8, by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, which would impose a tax on farmers, ranchers and other business owners to fund health-care coverage for those who cannot purchase coverage on their own.

Schwarzenegger has criticized that approach. He prefers reform that gives employers the option of providing insurance or paying into a state fund that would offer help to uninsured workers who couldn't pay for their health care coverage.

In calling for the special session, Schwarzenegger said "Californians cannot wait for reform."

Capital Press California Editor Bob Krauter is based in Sacramento. His e-mail address is bkrauter@capitalpress.com


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