Session to discuss funding for state water projects
By Alma Linda Manzanares
Texas A&M University-San Antonio is hosting a public conversation on Proposition 6, a proposal to amend the state Constitution to fund water projects with the creation of two new funds; the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT, and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas, or SWIRFT.
“Proposition 6: A Public Conversation,” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Texas A&M-San Antonio Education and Cultural Arts Center, 101 S. Santa Rosa St.
Although the university is hosting the discussion, it does not take a position on Proposition 6, either for or against it. Questions from the public may be written down and submitted during the event.
Calvin Finch, director of the water conservation and technology center for the Texas A&M University System, said the event is an informational session for people who have questions about Proposition 6 and are interested in discussing the issue with legislators who took part in passing the proposed amendment.
He said the biggest factors behind Proposition 6 are the fact that Texas is growing very fast but has limited water resources.
The 2012 State Water Plan projects an 82 percent growth in the state population between 2010 and 2060, growing from 25.4 million to 46.3 million people.
Finch said Texas could also see a drought worse than the one that plagued the state from 1950-1957. The drought of the 1950s represents the driest seven-year period in the state’s history and is still considered Texas’ “drought of record,” upon which most water supply planning in the state is based.
Finch is moderating the discussion with State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and Robert Puente, San Antonio Water System CEO. State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, is invited to the event but is unconfirmed because of scheduling conflicts, Jillian Reddish, senior communications specialist for A&M-San Antonio, said.
In order to implement the proposal, voters will have to approve the amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot. Early voting began Monday.
If voters approve Proposition 6, the legislature will authorize a one-time, $2 billion investment from the Economic Stabilization Fund, or the Rainy Day Fund, to SWIFT for water-planning initiatives directed by the Texas Water Development Board. The funds created by the amendment are designed to make funding water projects affordable and provide consistent, ongoing state funding for water.
During the 83rd Texas Legislature, three bills, Senate Joint Resolution 1, House Bill 4, and House Bill 1025, were approved and together proposed the amendment to the state Constitution.
“The information sessions can be important … because an off-year election like this may not have a lot of attractions to people, to get to the polls,” Finch said.
Finch said water conservation initiatives have to be outlined in the 2012 State Water Plan, which is an accumulation of the 16 regional plans, to be considered for funding by the Texas Water Development Board.
“We got good water supply if we have average rainfall but as we’ve seen the last few years, we’ve got an erratic rainfall situation,” Finch said. “We need to have the water resources capable of dealing with our growth and also dealing with that drought record if it ever comes. We have to be prepared.”
According to the 2012 State Water Plan, the estimated total capital cost of the plan is $53 billion.
“The only practical way to come up with the money is if half of it came from the state and half of it comes from local government,” Finch said.
Funding for the initiatives would not raise taxes, Finch said. “The Rainy Day Fund money is already sitting there,” he said. “That Rainy Day Fund is just growing very quickly because of the oil and natural gas revenues in the state. So it’s a good place to borrow some money.”
For more information on the event, call sponsored programs coordinator Jacquelyn Longoria at 210-784-1179.