KUT’s Veronica Zaragovia co-reported this article.
A revised version of a plan to pay for Texas water projects is heading for the House floor today.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 would amend the state constitution to create two accounts to fund water infrastructure projects. That would require voter approval in November. Lawmakers in the House had been talking about this approach to water funding for the last week, but needed to negotiate amendments to the Senate version of the measure and bring it through committee before it could come to the floor.
Friday, the House Appropriations Committee stripped the original SJR of language it contained about billions of dollars of funding from the Rainy Day fund that would go into the accounts. It also removed language about funding for transportation.
The House plans to vote on the funding issue separately as part of the appropriations process.
“This bill does not appropriate money…the money will be appropriated in a later day,” said House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.
One reason Republicans may want to separate out the funding from the creation of the water banks is that it might save them from breaking the state-mandated spending cap.
“The two billion dollars doesn’t go into the fund unless the fund is created by the voters,” Pitts said of the plan earlier this week.
Democrats — many of whom will only support accessing the rainy day fund only if it also means more funding for education — were less enthusiastic about the new tactic. Though as long as money is left out of SJR1, they can continue to negotiate a budget deal with Republicans with water funding as a bargaining chip.
Today, committee Republicans voted in favor of the measure; the six Democrats responded with present but not voting.
“Because we have all these other conversations going…I’m just going to be present on this one,” said State Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto. “Obviously I understand water is very critical to our state as is transportation, but I feel equally as passionate about education.”
The measure will be up for its first vote on the floor of the House on Monday.