In August 2010, Gov. Rick Perry told the West Texas Legislative Summit he was intent on funding the state’s plan to ensure long-term water supplies.
“On the water side, I sincerely believe that the 82nd Legislature,” convening in 2011, “must finally execute our state’s water plan to help meet a demand that is expected to grow 18 percent over the next 50 years as our population doubles,” Perry said. “Some might call the current price tag steep, but we must invest soon to avoid a water crisis in the not too distant future.”
After the 2011 Legislature took minimal action toward expanded funding of water projects, we rated this gubernatorial vow as a Promise Broken on our Perry-O-Meter tracking campaign promises.
But during the 2013 legislative session, Perry refreshed his call to fund the plan, which presents a long-term vision of projects desired within various regions of the state.
In response, lawmakers agreed to present voters with a proposed constitutional amendment that would, if approved at the polls in November, establish loan funds to back projects supported through the plan.
In his State of the State address in January, Perry urged members to withdraw $3.7 billion from the rainy day fund to invest in “critical water and transportation systems across our state.”
Lawmakers ultimately settled on the proposed constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would launch the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund “to assist the Texas Water Development Board in providing low-cost financial assistance to local and regional water providers for projects” listed in the 2012 version of the water plan, according to a summary of the proposal by its author, state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.
“The fund is intended to provide adequate and meaningful funding through financial assistance and other incentives in the development of new water supply strategies” outlined in the plan, the summary says, “as identified and requested by regional planning groups across the state of Texas.”
Related legislation, House Bill 4, signed into law by Perry on May 28, spells out how a revamped Texas Water Development Board is to oversee the funds and prioritize individual water projects. Also, the Legislature approved House Bill 1025 providing for $2 billion to flow from the rainy day fund to the water funds laid out in the proposed constitutional amendment. Perry has yet to act on this measure.
Upshot: Perry did not get precisely what he sought from lawmakers, but the state could soon have a funding stream dedicated to the water plan. Given that voters still hold sway, we are marking this promise as a Compromise.
Promise: To fund the state water plan.