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California drought: Governor announces $687M relief package

Emergency drought legislation has been unveiled as California struggles with one of the driest periods in state history.
February 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Emergency drought legislation has been unveiled as California struggles with one of the driest periods in state history.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday joined the Democratic leadership at the state's Emergency Operations Center to announce $687 million in emergency drought relief. The governor hopes the emergency measures will be put into effect in the next few weeks. He says more measures may soon be needed to deal with the historic drought.

"Today is a call for action. The state is going to do its part, but we're asking all the citizens to do their part," Brown said.

The legislation accelerates $549 million in infrastructure grants for local and regional water projects.

"We're not waiving environmental laws, we're not hiking fees or taxes, we're using money we have available now to save time, to save water and to help Californians hardest hit," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

The legislation includes $25 million in food assistance and $21 million in housing assistance for those hardest hit by the drought.

"This is truly an unprecedented crisis for California, and we must move swiftly to mitigate the effects," said Assembly Speaker John Perez.

The Democrats have enough votes to pass a legislation in both houses without any Republican support. The GOP leadership was not a part of Wednesday's announcement event.

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway released a statement saying, "While short-term help is needed, Sacramento must also focus on a long-term water solution. Tomorrow, we will propose legislation to help California plan for the evolving needs of a growing state. Our comprehensive proposal would secure California's water future and hopefully minimize the impact of future droughts on our state."

Food experts say the drought is already starting to hurt all Californians at the grocery store. Food prices could rise as much as 10-15 percent due to drought. The Fresno County Farm Bureau says 50 percent of Central Valley farmland isn't being used to grow anything because of the lack of rain. That region grows most of our country's food.

The governor was asked on Wednesday about mandatory water rationing. He said that's not necessary yet. The Democrats are working on a water bond to free up more funding that they hope to have on the November ballot.


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