SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) — A $3.4 billion drought relief package cleared its first hurdle in the California Legislature Thursday as lawmakers try to swiftly send it to the governor for approval.
The effort unanimously passed a Senate Budget Committee on Natural Resources.
“For every day or week that we wait in getting money on the ground, it’s days and weeks that there’s evaporation happening on our soils. And some of these water districts, quite frankly, just need some resources to get things done,” said Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber.
Half a billion dollars would be available immediately for emergency drought-related response for communities that need it across California.
Thursday’s latest drought monitor release showed 88% of the state is in a severe drought, with the entire state considered abnormally dry.
“We are not trying to kick down the road or waiting for everything to shake out in Washington,” said Sen. Howard Stern, D-Calabasas.
The proposed package would also put funds toward improving water supply in smaller communities, help ratepayers with COVID-19-related water debt, and provide help to struggling agriculture and water agencies. The package would be paid with state and federal funds.
State natural resources and water officials noted California’s conditions are approaching the levels the state experienced in its last drought a few years ago.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said regardless of current conditions, he does not yet feel the need to declare a drought a state of emergency.
Newsom’s administration Thursday told lawmakers many lessons were learned in the last drought that led to important projects and policies.
Lawmakers, however, say more still needs to be done.
“Every day we wait is a day that we’re losing the opportunity to get seeds in the ground and stabilize that soil, as well as take care of the environment,” Dahle said.
The package now heads to the Senate’s full Budget Committee for approval.