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Voters will ‘flush’ water bond, says pollster

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 2:44 pm in 2010 election, water.

Only one-third of voters would support the much-touted $11.1 billion water bond headed for the November ballot, according to a pollster.

Keep in mind pollster, Ben Tulchin, was commissioned by opponents.

But the paltry number does not bode well for the bond, which state legislators hammered out as part of a hard-fought deal. A successful bond usually polls high — 65 to 70 percent favorable — in the early stages. The higher figure acts as a buffer after opponents launch their campaign and voter support declines.

Not so fast, countered proponents of the bond a few minutes after I posted this entry.

“The poll results quoted by opponents in their press release are based on one question from a longer poll, with no information about prior questions which could have tainted the results. Their results are very different from our own internal polling,” said Jim Earp, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Jobs and co-chair of the Alliance for Clean Water and Jobs.  “Our polling shows we have a close race at the present time, that voters understand our state faces major water challenges, and that voters will support the bond once they hear the facts. We already have a very broad coalition behind the measure and we will wage a strong campaign over the next eight months to achieve victory in November.

We’ll see.

Read on for the full text of the opponents; press release:

SACRAMENTO, Feb. 18 – A majority of California voters oppose the $11.1 billion water bond that the Legislature and the Governor have placed on the November ballot, according to a recent statewide poll conducted by Tulchin Research.

Just one-third of likely voters (34%) support the water bond currently, while more than a majority of likely voters (55%) oppose it. That’s a very weak start for a bond measure, and some of the existing support is likely to drop off as a campaign against the bond ramps up later this year, in the view of opponents of the bond, who released the survey results today.

“Voters recognize this bond as bad water policy and bad fiscal policy at a time when California is drowning in red ink,” said Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate with Sierra Club California, part of the campaign opposing the bond measure. “We need clean water and we need a better water policy, but this bond is not going to get us there.”

Pollster Ben Tulchin, who conducted the survey, called the results daunting.

“The challenge for backers of this bond is monumental,” said Tulchin. “No statewide bond measure has ever won when a majority of voters opposed it at the outset.”

Support was weak in the poll, even among those voting yes, with just 12% saying they would “definitely” vote yes and 4% saying they merely “leaned” in favor. In contrast, there was greater intensity on the “no” side, with a third of all voters polled (32%) saying they would “definitely” vote no.

“This bond hands out billions of dollars to corporations and other special interests at the expense of California taxpayers,” said Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director with consumer rights group Food & Water Watch. “It’s no surprise that support for the bond is already weak. We expect voters to reject it in November.”

A number of prominent environmental, consumer, and environmental justice organizations have already joined the campaign opposing the bond, including the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Planning and Conservation League, Friends of the River, Food & Water Watch, the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, the Winnemem Wintu tribe, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), Southern California Watershed Alliance, and Restore the Delta.

“We are encouraged to see that voters across California share our view that this bond is a bad deal for taxpayers,” said Tina Andolina, Legislative Director for the Planning and Conservation League.

Andolina noted that cross-tabulated results from the poll show opposition across party and geographic lines. “No demographic group anywhere in the state offers majority support for the bond,” said Andolina. “Voters of all parties oppose it, as do voters in the northern and southern parts of the state and the Central Valley.”

Opponents note that the bond does not provide immediate funding to municipalities or conservation efforts. Low-income communities, many of which live with contaminated drinking water, would receive only a tiny fraction of total bond funds.

In contrast, up to $4 billion of taxpayers’ investment could be used to subsidize large corporate interests, including agribusinesses, that will profit from the projects. $3 billion can be used to construct new dams, and as much as $1 billion can subsidize costly private desalination projects.

Campaign members point out that money to finance the bond will come out of California’s general fund, which also funds education, healthcare, police and fire, and other essential services. The hit on the general fund would be enormous, as much as $800 million per year. Total debt repayment on the bond is expected to top $22 billion over 30 years.

“Instead of building projects we don’t need, we should be fixing local drinking water systems and taking other steps to ensure a safe, reliable water supply for California,” said Scow of Food & Water Watch.  “Voters are already signaling that they know this bond is the wrong approach at the wrong time.”
From the proponents:

“The poll results quoted by opponents in their press release are based on one question from a longer poll, with no information about prior questions which could have tainted the results. Their results are very different from our own internal polling,” said Jim Earp, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Jobs and co-chair of the Alliance for Clean Water and Jobs.

“Our polling shows we have a close race at the present time, that voters understand our state faces major water challenges, and that voters will support the bond once they hear the facts. We already have a very broad coalition behind the measure and we will wage a strong campaign over the next eight months to achieve victory in November.

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  • http://www.cocotax.org Kris Hunt

    California simply cannot afford to pay for another bond out of the general fund. Anyone who supports this bond should disclose exactly what they are willing to eliminate from the state budget in order to pay for it.
    The state has to cut up its credit card and start acting responsibly.

  • No Water Bond

    Kris is spot on – with its massive giveaways to private interests and wasteful pork projects, California can’t afford this bond right now.

    The bonds’ cheerleaders are calling it the “Safe, Clean, Reliable Water Act of 2010″, but it might be more accurately to call it “damaging” and “way too expensive” – see http://nowaterbond.com/ for more details on why this bad California water bond needs to go down at the polls in November.