Published: 02 May 2013 06:47 PM
Updated: 02 May 2013 07:11 PM
At the outset of this year’s Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus were clear: Legislators must find a way to fund Texas’ 50-year water plan. The Republican leaders were absolutely right, given the state’s population growth and persistent droughts.
Now, though, the goal is caught up in sidebar politics, and it’s facing a killer of a procedural deadline in the Texas House. Both problems need to get worked out — fast — so communities can start developing more water supplies.
The process stalled out Monday when Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston used a parliamentary move to stop debate on the House’s water funding bill. HB 11 had identified $2 billion in the state’s rainy day fund as a way to help finance the plan, which is a compilation of water supplies that regional groups have identified for Texas’ future. Turner, though, wanted the legislation to include more money for public schools, from which legislators took $5.4 billion during their cash-short 2011 session.
The House already has signed off on restoring $3 billion to schools. But we understand Turner’s point and suggest Straus and other House leaders agree to put even more money back, particularly for strategies that benefit low-performing students. If that happens, Turner and his fellow House Democrats need to vote for this critical bill.
Straus and other Republicans better work this out quickly so HB 11 can come back to the House. Its sponsor, the persistent GOP Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland, can bring it back up Monday. But the bill must make it out of the House by the end of the day Thursday.
In other words, this legislation faces a narrow time frame. What’s more, some House Republicans don’t want to pass it.
If HB 11 is approved, representatives would have to cast a separate vote to lift the constitutional limit on how much legislators can spend every two years. That’s part of the parliamentary dance going on with this bill. Conservatives elected with tea party backing are reluctant to lift the cap for fear of looking like free spenders.
We understand the need to keep Texas government lean. The low-tax, controlled-spending approach helps keep our economy humming.
Two points must be made: One, the transfer from the rainy day fund would be a one-time investment, not a recurring expenditure. Two, Texas’ economy will have a difficult time growing if the state doesn’t supply enough water to homes, businesses and farms.
Perry keeps hammering home these critical points. So do conservatives such as John Colyandro of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute.
There’s a difference between big government and a one-time investment in Texas’ future. The House needs to embrace the latter to keep Texas growing.
WHAT HE SAID
“Funding water infrastructure is critical to meet the needs of our growing population, as well as to keep Texas’ manufacturing, oil and gas, and electricity generation sectors growing. Acting now is a prudent step for the long-term prosperity of Texas.”
John Colyandro, Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute