In the Hands of Voters, Texas Water Funding is No Sure Thing

Water was one of the big topics this legislative session, as a growing state faced strained supplies and year after year of drought. Well before things kicked off this year, a plan surfaced to take $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to start a water bank that would fund pipelines, reservoirs, conservation and more. That plan had widespread support, yet still faced opposition from Tea Party conservatives in the House. Ultimately, a mix of bills was put together to start the water bank and reform the agency that will oversee it, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). But not so fast.

While Governor Rick Perry signed off on a big part of the plan earlier this week with HB 4, there’s one catch: in order for the bank to get up and running, voters will have to approve it. There wasn’t enough will in the legislature to break the state’s spending cap and spend the money themselves, so instead voters will be making that decision on the ballot this November.

How’d we get to this California-esque decision? KUT’s Ben Philpott tells the tale of how Texas lawmakers decided to take a gamble and put the choice to voters this fall in what’s likely to be a low-turnout, off-year election:

“I will certainly be one to campaign across the state against it,” says state Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano. I think there are a lot of conservative groups that see this kind of assault on Texas’s financial health as something that needs to be campaigned against,” Taylor said at the end of the regular legislative session.

And he’ll have support across the state. A number of Tea Party groups came to Austin during the legislative session to make it clear they are opposed to just about ant spending out of the state’s rainy day fund.

Now, that opposition didn’t keep water bills from passing during the session. But remember, constitutional elections only average about 8 percent voter turnout. So a small but energized Tea Party, could certainly make their numbers count in November.

You can listen to the full audio story from Agenda Texas above.

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