SACRAMENTO — Democratic lawmakers and Gov. George Deukmejian reached agreement Thursday on a $150-million toxics cleanup bond issue, but election-year politics stalled placement of the proposal and $1.5 billion in other bond measures on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The Legislature did approve and send to the Republican governor a $500-million bond measure to build new state prisons, but legislators were balking at approving a variety of other bond issues, including proposals to build more school and college classrooms, construct libraries, buy school buses and clean up Mexican sewage spilling across the border into California.
Efforts to reach a compromise collapsed during the evening when Deukmejian and legislative leaders were unable to agree on a trade-off that would include the toxics measure, which the governor wants, and several measures sought by Democrats, including the library, school bus and sewage proposals.
"It's the Democrats' omnibus reelection act," complained Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale after talks broke down. "We're going to resist giving into blackmail."
Democrats believe the governor dearly wants the toxics bond measure on the ballot to counter the "Get Tough on Toxics" initiative sponsored by environmentalists and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Deukmejian's Democratic gubernatorial opponent.
As a result, the Democrats were using the toxics bond measure first to gain concessions on hazardous waste issues and then in an attempt to win the governor's approval of as many of the other measures as possible.
Earlier in the day, as legislators prepared to leave for a monthlong summer vacation, Administration officials and Democrats were able to reach agreement on the compromise $150-million toxics cleanup measure that substantially altered a $200-million proposal the governor had made in May.
During an extraordinary simultaneous meeting of two Assembly committees, lawmakers and Administration officials hammered out an agreement that would shift more of the burden of paying for the bonds from taxpayers to industries that produce toxic wastes.
In some cases, the bond measure would give polluters loans, instead of grants, to clean up hazardous waste. In other cases, the bonds would be paid off by taxes paid by industry.
But the compromise left unresolved the major issue of whether leaking underground tanks should be cleaned up by local governments, as Deukmejian desires, or by state and regional water boards, as Democrats want.
The compromise would provide the largest amount--$55 million--for the cleanup of the underground storage tanks. Another $35 million would be loaned to companies for the cleanup of hazardous waste.
Deukmejian's proposal to spend $50 million of the taxpayers' money on toxic cleanup was removed from the bill and his plan to spend $53 million to develop new technology for disposing of wastes was transformed into a $25-million loan program.
Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) said the compromise was a victory for the toxics initiative that he helped sponsor for the ballot.
Protection for Water
The "Get Tough on Toxics" measure would make it illegal to knowingly poison drinking water, require the disclosure of exposure to toxics and toughen anti-pollution laws.
"The toxics initiative is already bearing fruit," Hayden said. "It shows the power of having this toxics initiative on the ballot because it has made the governor support $150 million worth of basically progressive toxics programs, almost all of them originally proposed by Democrats."
Agreement on 4 Measures
Deukmejian and the Democrats already agree on placing at least four bond measures on the ballot, including the $500-million prison proposal, an $800-million measure to build new school classrooms, a $400-million bond issue for colleges and universities and a $100-million measure to help local governments treat their drinking water.
Steven A. Merksamer, the governor's chief of staff, said Deukmejian has taken no position on the measures to provide $100 million for libraries, $100 million for Mexican sewage and $100 million to help local school districts buy new school buses.