New Movement on Funding State Water Plan

PA PHOTOS /LANDOV

A plan from the Texas Senate would take big decisions about funding for water and roads and put them in the hands of voters.

There’s a new push at the State Capital to pull $2 Billion dollars from Texas’ Rainy Day Fund and put it towards water projects. After a recent move in the House died on the floor in dramatic fashion two weeks ago, there were real questions on whether the water plan would get funded this legislative session. Today, backers of that plan got a glimmer of hope, while opponents are concerned the state could end up spending more than it should.

The new idea is to use a resolution already passed in the state Senate, SJR 1, where lawmakers would vote to set aside two billion dollars from the rainy day fund for water. But it would put the decision to create a dedicated account for water projects to voters statewide.

“The $2 billion dollars doesn’t go into the fund unless the fund is created by the voters,” says House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts.

Why so complicated? Doing it like this, lawmakers may see a way to fund water projects without voting to break the state-mandated spending cap. That was something many Republicans were loathe to do.

The idea is already taking fire from Tea Party conservatives like state Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who oppose tapping the rainy day fund. “Finding out that SJR 1 which would drain Texas’ small savings account and imperil Texas’ credit rating, is moving again reminds me of the Death Star coming back online in Return of the Jedi,” Taylor wrote on his Facebook page today.

But Rep. Pitts thinks the plan will come before the House Appropriations Committee as early as tomorrow.

Ben Philpott of KUT contributed reporting.

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