California lawmakers are racing to craft a legislative package that would revamp the state's decades-old water system but are at odds over how to pay for it.
Among the biggest concerns is whether California, hard hit by the recession and facing continued budget deficits, can afford to take on more debt.
The answer given Friday to a legislative committee formed specifically to address water issues -- maybe.
Budget experts warned the state could not afford to pay for new debt because of the budget troubles plaguing California. However, a bond that would be paid back by water users or those who benefit from any projects might be feasible.
Jason Dickerson, a budget expert at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office, said that every billion dollars in new bond debt would cost the state about $65 million a year for the next 30 years if it were paid out of the general fund.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he wants a bond put before voters next year and any proposal must include provisions for new dams. He said new reservoirs are crucial to ensure enough water for agriculture.