Lawmakers passed two bills that would delay the water bond vote as well as the terms of the nine members of the California Water Commission, which is tasked with allocating some of the bond funds.
The bills, AB1260 and AB1265, were scheduled for a vote by the Assembly Monday evening. They require two-thirds approval by both houses.
Schwarzenegger and other supporters in the Legislature are pushing for the delay out of concern that voters will reject the bond while the state is grappling with a $19 billion budget deficit. They also argue it will give lawmakers time to resolve some of their lingering disputes over the bond's content.
"Voters in the state see right through it," Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, said of the bond. "I'm willing to support this today to give us more time to amend some of the things out of it that we disagree on."
Critics say the bond is too expensive and loaded with pork-barrel projects. They had wanted it to stay on the ballot in the hope it would fail.
"This won't get any better in two years," said Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, one of a half-dozen senators -- mainly Democrats -- who voted against AB1260 and AB1265. "What's really wrong with this bond right now is it's fiscally irresponsible."
The bond is intended to upgrade California's vast water system, which was built decades ago when the state's population was about half its current size of 38.5 million people. Funds would be devoted to cleaning up contaminated groundwater, boosting conservation efforts, updating sewage systems and researching the possibility of building at least two dams sought by farming interests to increase their water supply.