SACRAMENTO — In what was called "a classic pork barrel bill," legislators Saturday split up an anticipated $375-million federal oil revenue windfall for pet projects ranging from pothole repair, buying abandoned railroad tracks and building a swimming pool to preserving a prehistoric desert bush and studying how to save an endangered songbird.
Even before the check for the disputed funds has been mailed from Washington, the Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill by Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria) to spend the money.
In the wake of marathon negotiations which almost collapsed, Gov. George Deukmejian's legislative secretary, Michael Frost, said the governor had "committed to the projects in the bill," which would take effect when signed.
But Frost cautioned lawmakers that Deukmejian would not agree in advance to all the wording in the hastily drawn 33-page "mini-budget."
In fact, legislative staffers who fashioned the agreement with the Administration acknowledged they were unfamiliar with many of the projects in the bill.
'Classic Pork Barrel'
"I think it's a classic pork barrel bill," asserted Assemblyman William Leonard (R-Redlands).
"It's one-time money for which there was no previous commitment," added Leonard, who tucked $1 million into the bill to buy land surrounding an 11,700-year-old creosote bush in the Mojave Desert. It has been identified as the world's oldest known living organism.
But no one expects to see the money before winter.
"I think we'll have it" by January, insisted Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles). A spokesman for Interior Secretary Donald Hodel confirmed Roberti's assessment.
The Reagan Administration has proposed giving the $375 million in a bitter dispute over how to share almost $6 billion in offshore oil revenues nationwide.
Something for All
Lawmakers could not wait for final resolution to carve up the windfall. After subtracting $125 million for road repairs, they parceled out $83 million to the Senate, Assembly and Administration.
Roberti set aside most of the Senate's share for child care, school construction and coastal protection.
However, many Assembly members jumped at the chance to grab money for projects in their districts.
O'Connell was able to secure $300,000 for a swimming pool in Carpinteria and $1 million for highway call boxes in Ventura County.
Among other appropriations in the bill are:
- $6.5 million to lend money to local governments to purchase abandoned rail lines, such as the Northwestern Pacific line along the Eel River in Northern California.
- $150,000 to map out a plan to save an endangered songbird known as the Least Bell's Vireo, which has jeopardized an Oceanside highway project.
- $1.3 million for a study of Santa Monica Bay pollution sought by Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica).
In an abrupt reversal, the Legislature also approved spending funds on at least two items previously rejected:
- $2 million to halt the Portuguese Bend landslide in Rancho Palos Verdes sought by Assemblyman Gerald Felando (R-San Pedro).
- $65,000 to reimburse Santa Fe Springs for a hazardous waste study sought by Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk).
In a move aimed at forcing Deukmejian to sign the O'Connell bill, Assembly Democrats said the governor agreed in advance to sign both O'Connell's measure and an Administration-supported bill to fix deteriorating roads and highways.
Encounters a Snag
The road repair bill by Sen. John Foran (D-San Francisco), which would set aside $125 million of the oil revenues, also was approved by the Assembly and Senate and sent to Deukmejian in the early hours of Saturday.
But the delicately fashioned deal hit a snag when Assembly Republicans balked at supporting it.
The Republicans were angered that Assembly Democrats would not approve authorization for a Los Angeles prison as part of Deukmejian's prison construction package. But they backed down and the bill won final passage in the Assembly by a 61-12 margin.