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Vote No on Prop 6: Hold your water!

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Graphic on how Texas Water Funding works.
Let's try to understand Texas water funding.

Pardon LIV's "water wonky ways," but we've been part of the "water front" in Texas since our inception in 2013. We hope you find this important and helpful backdrop to how we have come to conclude a NO vote on this proposition.

If approved by voters, the legislatively referred constitutional amendment (amending section 49 of Article 3 of the state constitution) --- Prop 6---- would establish in the Texas constitution, a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund, the “Texas Water Fund”, with the dedication of $1 billion of state money for water projects in Texas. The Fund will be administered by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), or any successor. The Board, created in 1957, consists of three members appointed by the Governor.

SJR 75 was sponsored by Sen. Charles Perry (R-28), chair of the Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, and authored in the Texas House by Rep. Tracy King (D-Uvalde).

Quote from Sen. Perry:

"Water infrastructure needs in Texas total in the billions in order to cover aging and failing pipes and build out new water supply. It is estimated that the state loses 136 billion of gallons of water a year to leaking water main pipes. Additionally, the state will be 7 million acre feet short of supply in the next 50 years. S.J.R. 75 allows the Texas voters to decide if the state will create the Texas Water Fund to continue investment in water for years to come."

Specifically, If the Fund is approved, TWDB would provide loans and grants to Texas communities to finance water supply development, water and wastewater infrastructure repair, water awareness, and water conservation projects. This investment would be the largest single state dollar investment in Texas water since voters approved a $2 billion transfer from the Texas Rainy Day Fund, and the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) in 2013. If Proposition 6 fails, the $1 billion will not be available for funding water projects and programs (indeed, proponents of the 2023 Prop 6 characterize the $1 billion of funding as a “down payment” on what will be needed to supply Texas’ existing and future water needs).

The Fund would consist of money allocated by the state legislature, gifts and grants, and investment earnings of the fund. The amendment would require no less than 25% of the initial allocation to the fund by the legislature to be transferred to the New Water Supply for Texas Fund, created by the implementing legislation (SB 28) for the new Texas Water Fund. A full schematic is at the top of this page and see the comment below:

Distributions to water infrastructure projects would prioritize projects in rural political subdivisions or municipalities with a population of less than 150,000.

The League of Women Voters of Texas lists only two arguments against the measure:

• The amount the Legislature has agreed to put into the fund is not enough to pay for the number of projects needed to secure Texas’ future water supply needs.

• Proposition 6 would allow funds to be taken from state revenues to fund local water projects.

The earlier 2013 Prop 6 constitutional amendment created a water development bank for projects designated to help meet the state's need for water, coupled with a diversion of $2 billion of funding from the state’s savings account, the Rainy Day Fund. One of its programs, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT, issues bonds to provide low-cost loans to finance water supply projects.

SWIFT’s performance has been criticized for its failure to live up to its promise of issuing at least 10% of those bonds to benefit rural communities and agricultural conservation. In an April 2022 article, the Texas Tribune cited a finding by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission that bonds issued for such projects since 2013 had only amounted to 1% of bonds issued to finance state water plan projects.

LIV's Conclusion on a Vote No on Prop 6

As an outspoken critic of the original Prop 6 in 2013, largely because of our pessimism that too much power would be vested in three people appointed by the Governor to carry out all of the lofty promises made by Prop 6, LIV is still unwilling to support this Prop 6. We still do not believe that priority will be given to rural Texas after being neglected by SWIFT for too long, which is why LIV suggests you vote No on Prop 6.
That said, there appears to be no organized challenge to the passage of Prop 6. Indeed, it has been characterized as a necessary “down payment” on meeting Texas’ water needs so stay tuned for more to come in future. It will, therefore, likely pass.


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