Texas Could Spend $2 Billion on Water Projects

The State of Texas would pull $2 billion from its rainy day fund to finance water infrastructure projects, under legislation proposed by the chairman of the House Natural Resources committee last week.

The proposal by State Rep. Allan Ritter [R-Nederland] is a big step in state efforts to address gaps in the state?s system of pipes and reservoirs left bare by the 2011 drought. The $2 billion would kick-start a revolving, low-interest loan program in which the state would lend money to local governmental entities for water projects. The Ritter bills have the backing of Texas Speaker Joe Straus.

?Members of the Texas House understand the importance of water to business, agriculture and all Texans,? Straus said in a statement. ?I am confident that the House will take bold, substantial action to address our water needs this session, and the filing of these bills formally begins that process.?

With water infrastructure projects enjoying wide early support, despite general discomfort with spending efforts among the Republican-led Legislature, the struggle this session might be over how much to funnel toward the loan program.

In a sense, the House has now laid down a $2 billion marker. Late last year, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, indicated that he thought $1 billion is the appropriate amount to start such a loan program.

The state water plan, released in 2012, claimed that the state must spend $29 billion on water projects over the next 50 years, otherwise water shortages and droughts could cost a million jobs over the next 50 years and hamper the economy. Through a revolving loan program, the state could continue lending out money for those projects as earlier loans are paid back.

?Our projections show that $2 billion would fully implement the State Water Plan as it exists today,? Ritter said in a statement. ?With that one-time capital investment, we could provide adequate, meaningful funding to the plan and achieve the state?s goals of supporting local entities in the implementation of projects.?

This information was taken from an article appearing in the Austin American-Statesman.

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