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$2B water plan earns approval of voters

BY Alex Wang [ November 07, 2013 at 05:07:00 ]

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 11:26 pm
Associated Press

Proposition 6, which would earmark $2 billion of the state’s Rainy Day fund for use in developing reservoirs, pipelines and other water resources, was approved by Texas voters on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s ballot measure was widely expected to pass. It had the backing of environmental groups and most of the state’s top elected officials, including Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

“Today, the people of Texas made history, ensuring we’ll have the water we need to grow and thrive for the next five decades, without raising state taxes,” Perry said. “Now it’s time to get to work on the projects that’ll help us meet our growing water needs, preserving and improving both our economic strength and quality of life.”

The State Water Development Board has identified $53 billion in projects that would ensure enough water is available in 2060. The new revolving account should help leverage the funds needed to implement the water plan, though many lawmakers insist it is only a first step to meeting all the state’s needs.

Local governments that use money will have to pay it back with interest.

Four candidates for state Senate District 4 gave their comments on Proposition 6.

“We shouldn’t have punted the decision to the voters,” State Rep. Steve Toth said. “We should have paid for this out of the general revenue. That’s not leadership.”

State Rep. Brandon Creighton said Texas will remain the job creation engine of North America because of the passage of Proposition 6.

“There were differences of opinion on ultimately how Texans should fund large-scale water infrastructure projects during the legislative session,” Creighton said. “There is no doubt that our state is in a stronger position for the future.”

Conservative businessman and former Senator Michael Galloway said the Rainy Day fund is a safety net and it shouldn’t be used for water or roads.

“(The water) should be paid for by the general revenue,” Galloway said. “We shouldn’t be dipping into (the Rainy Day fund) as a slush fund.”

The Woodlands Township Director Gordy Bunch said he expected it to pass.

He related his assumption to the three-year drought, water levels being substantially low and 1,200 people moving to Texas per day, he said.

“I voted for it,” Bunch said. “By and large, the majority of the people understand we need a water infrastructure.”

Opponents of the ballot measure worried about taking money from the state’s savings account while bristling at the idea that bureaucrats might pick winners and losers when awarding contracts.

Republican Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, said he felt the state shouldn’t get involved in the bond market.Still, experts say Texas needs to capture at least 2.9 trillion gallons of fresh water by 2060 to meet demand. Money from the state’s cash reserves will help implement key parts of Texas’ 2012 State Water Plan, which calls for 562 projects, with 34 percent of the water coming from conservation and reuse, 17 percent from new major reservoirs, 34 percent from other surface supplies and 15 percent from other sources.The measure amends the state constitution to move $2 billion from Texas’ Rainy Day fund to its water infrastructure fund. The money would help defray the borrowing costs on large-scale water infrastructure projects, including creating reservoirs, laying new pipelines and replacing older ones.

Courier staff writer Kimberly Sutton contributed to this article.


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