Water proposition among those on statewide ballot

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A request to take $2 billion out of the Texas Rainy Day Fund to offset some of the cost of water conservation and development is among the statewide questions on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Proposition 6, which has majority support among Texans, according to a Texas Tribune and University of Texas poll, underwrites a 50-year plan that would spend an estimated $53 billion on water projects throughout the state.

State Rep. Jim Keffer, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, and Carlos Rubinstein, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, discussed the proposition in the second of two meetings hosted by the Texas Tribune at Texas Christian University Tuesday afternoon.

Rubinstein said at least 20 percent of the money would go to water conservation while at least 10 percent of it would go toward water for rural Texas.

Supporters of the measure say that passage is crucial to the state’s economic health.

Texas’ population is expected to double by 2060 while water supplies are expected to decrease by 10 percent, according to WaterTexas, a group supporting Proposition 6.

The majority of the state is currently in drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

If voters approve the state water development board would work with regional water-planning groups to prioritize the projects that would receive state money. There are 16 regional water-planning groups in the state. The plans could change based upon the conditions present at those five-year intervals. 

Opponents of the measure object to taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund.

The plan takes money from the fund without doing anything to secure Texas’ water supply, wrote Debra Median, executive director of We Texans, a conservative group, and Republican candidate for state comptroller, in an opinion column posted on the Texas Tribune website.

However, Keffer said Tuesday the Rainy Day Fund would be replenished and there was a “floor,” or minimum, the fund would go down to before rebounding.

Texas Tribune Editor Evan Smith, who moderated the program at TCU, wondered if low voter turnout might sink the measure.

Only 36 percent of Texans voted in the last midterm elections, according to the Texas Civic Health Index report. That’s the lowest turnout in the nation, according to the report.

Keffer said the proposition is in “God’s hands” when it comes to being passed although he warned those in favor of the measure to not be complacent and to get out and vote.

Failure to pass the proposition would be “kicking the can down the road,” he said.

Rubinstein agreed, saying the state is still going to have to deal with securing its water sources whether or not voters pass the proposition.

“People are going to be thirsty no matter what party they belong to,” he said.

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