Bills aimed at funding the State Water Plan rolled into two subcommittees today in the State House and Senate. Lawmakers discussed taking $2 billion from the rainy day fund and giving it to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to fund local water projects. They also heard support for the plan from diverse groups from around the state.
Testimonies supporting both bills came from environmental activists and business leaders. Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson spoke in favor of the bill to the House Appropriations subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform.
Johnson says her city paired with Buda and San Marcos in a local water plan to ensure that the cities would have enough water. She says the plan would provide insurance for her growing community.
“It will help us to continue to bring water in out growing communities,” she says. “The funding is only one piece of the water puzzle.”
Both committees expressed concern over the size of the loan and how the TWDB would choose the projects it funds.
Democratic Senator John Whitmire of Houston questioned Fraser about the board’s prioritization in the hearing.
“How do we put the checks and balances so we don’t see the abuses we’ve seen in CPRIT, the enterprise fund? How do we make sure some powerful politicians in Austin don’t prioritize projects for their friends?” he says. “I hope each member of the legislature will drill down and make sure this fund is used for its proper purpose.”
The plan appears to have widespread support. But diverse groups from conservationists to business interests to agricultural users all have different ideas how the money should be spent.
Environmentalists testified in support of the bill, adding that long-range planning would aid in water conservation efforts.
“Conservation is the state’s cheapest and most effective plan,” Laura Huffman, the Texas State Director for the Nature Conservancy said in front of the House subcommittee.
Though the bills appeared to garner widespread support from many interests, SB 22 was left pending in the Senate subcommittee.