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Nicole Parra links budget vote to water bond

SACRAMENTO -- Assembly Member Nicole Parra could once again be in some trouble with fellow Democrats -- this time over a suggestion that she won't vote for the state budget unless lawmakers approve a water bond.

In a recent letter to Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Parra issues what appears to be a stark ultimatum:

"I simply cannot support a budget without a solution to the Central Valley's water supply," the Hanford lawmaker said in a July 29 letter obtained by The Bee. "A vote on a budget that adequately reflects our state's priorities is only half honest, unless we are simultaneously addressing the issue of water supply."

She "respectfully" asks in the letter that the Assembly "place a water bond on the November ballot."

Parra declined to comment when asked about the letter.

Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for Bass, D-Los Angeles, said the speaker "fully expects" Parra's vote on the budget. "We're still making progress on a water bond, but those are two separate issues," Maviglio said.

It is unusual for a lawmaker to openly put such a condition on his or her budget vote.

Parra's demand puts her at odds with most Democrats, who favor getting the budget done before addressing the state's water needs. Even Republican leaders -- who have long pushed for state money for dams -- say they aren't linking budget talks with water negotiations.

Assuming all Assembly Democrats vote yes on the budget, it takes at least six Republican votes to pass the lower house. If Parra sticks to her pledge -- and lawmakers don't approve a water deal before the budget -- Democrats may have to woo an additional Republican vote on the budget, now 36 days late.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has been pushing a $9.3 billion bond for water supply and conservation. But water negotiations have appeared to take a back seat as the two parties struggle to agree on a state budget.

At the latest, lawmakers have until Aug. 16 to get a water bond on the ballot.

Parra, whose district is home to many thirsty farms, is one of only a handful of moderate Democrats who have pushed for state money to build dams. Most Democrats favor conservation and other programs, such as cleaning up polluted ground water.

Parra's letter is her latest run-in with the Democratic establishment.

She has angered many in her party by openly praising Republican Danny Gilmore, a candidate to fill Parra's Assembly seat when she terms out at the end of the year. Gilmore is running against Democrat Fran Florez, mother of state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, a longtime Parra rival.