by ROSS RAMSEY and NEENA SATIJA
Texas voters approved a $2 billion draft from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to finance water projects in the fast-growing, drought-plagued state Tuesday night, along with eight other amendments to the state’s constitution.
That amendment, Proposition 6 on the ballot, had by far the highest profile of the nine proposals. It will move the money from the state’s savings account into a revolving account to provide public entities with low-cost loans for water supply and conservation projects.
Campaigns led by high-profile politicians including Gov. Rick Perry; House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland; state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay; and former state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, spent more than $2 million urging voters to pass the measure.
Some conservatives disapproved of using money from that account, saying such a move encouraged “wasteful” spending and raising questions about who might benefit from state spending on water projects.
In spite of those objections, the amendment passed easily.
“Today, the people of Texas made history, ensuring we’ll have the water we need to grow and thrive for the next five decades, without raising state taxes,” Perry said Tuesday night. “Now it’s time to get to work on the projects that’ll help us meet our growing water needs, preserving and improving both our economic strength and quality of life.”
Conservation and environmental groups also endorsed and backed the water proposition, in part because one-fifth of the money is set aside for conservation and reuse projects. “This bold action — by both voters today and state leaders during the last legislative session — is reminiscent of the sweeping response our state made during the Drought of Record in the 1950s,” said Laura Huffman, Texas state director of the Nature Conservancy. “What is different, however, is the strong emphasis on water conservation and the critical role it will play in enabling Texas to prosper and ensuring the viability of our lakes, rivers, aquifers and coastal bays.”
Turnout was bolstered by local elections in Houston and Harris County, where Mayor Annise Parker earned a third term with a relatively easy win over a well-financed opponent, Ben Hall. Harris County voters rejected a $217 million bond measure that could have transformed the Astrodome into a special events center. Now the building, once billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” could become a candidate for the wrecking ball.
Voters in Austin sent a special House election to a runoff, where Mike VanDeWalle, a Republican, will face Celia Israel, a Democrat, in a race to fill the unexpired term of former state Rep. Mark Strama, a Democrat who resigned earlier this year. The seat will be on the ballot again next year, with the winner of the regular election carrying on after the current term expires in January 2015.
Here’s a summary of the other constitutional amendments that voters approved Tuesday:
ROSS RAMSEY is editor of The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury. NEENA SATIJA contributed to this report.Email | Print