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Brown, Democrats closing in on water bond deal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders said Monday they are closing in on a deal to overhaul a water bond on the November ballot, but their replacement plan still needs support from Republicans.

Both houses of the Legislature voted Monday to extend the deadline for printing voter pamphlets, giving lawmakers and the governor another two days to reach an agreement.

The proposal would provide money for dams, water recycling and groundwater cleanup and requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Democrats hold a supermajority in the 80-member Assembly but do not in the 40-member Senate, where they will need Republican support to put the replacement measure on the ballot.

“We are negotiating hard with the administration, with our Republican colleagues ... to try to get this done,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

He and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, support a $7 billion proposal that would appear as Proposition 1 on the November ballot. An $11.1 billion bond negotiated in 2009 is on the ballot as Proposition 43 but is considered too costly and burdened by pet projects to pass.

A sticking point in the latest negotiations has been funding for water storage projects, including the proposed Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento and the Temperance Flat dam northeast of Fresno. Democrats are offering $2.5 billion in the latest package, while Republicans have demanded at least $3 billion, the amount in the current bond.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he was supporting the two-day extension because he sees progress in the negotiations.

“We're not there yet,” he said.

The bond also faces opposition from environmental groups and some Northern California interests, which say the Democratic proposal enables Brown's plan to build tunnels diverting water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California and Central Valley farms.

Without the two-day extension, language and arguments for a potentially defunct $11.1 billion water bond would have appeared in the ballot pamphlet sent to voters. Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, was one of three lawmakers to vote against the extension in the Senate, saying it reduces the time voters have to consider all issues on the ballot.

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Associated Press writer Tom Verdin contributed to this report.

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