Is the State Water Plan unfunded? Yes
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Last week the Statesman took me to task for a post I wrote after the Iowa caucus in which I said that the State Water Plan has not been funded. The article appeared under the headline, “Is the State Water Plan unfunded? No” Here is what the Statesman said: The 2012 State Water Plan, published today, has been getting some attention since the Texas Water Development Board approved it Dec. 15, initially because the plan says it will take $53 billion to ensure a growing population secures the most vital resource through 2060, yet requires no action by anyone. But Wednesday, Texas Monthly’s senior executive editor Paul Burka, wrote in his blog after Gov. Rick Perry announced he is reassessing his campaign that “the state water plan went unfunded in a drought of historic proportions,” one of the ways he says Perry has damaged Texas as governor. Certainly, the drought has been historic, but, contrary to what Burka said, the water plan has not been unfunded. “In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature authorized additional funding to finance approximately $100 million in state water plan projects. These funds will be available during state fiscal years 2012 and 2013,” the state water plan said. Here is my response: It is true that the water plan has received some funding. This is not the same thing as saying that the water plan has been funded. It has no source of permanent funding that would allow the water plan to go forward on an ongoing basis, rather than from one bond program to the next, as is the case now. What is needed is a reliable source of permanent funding–for example, a tap fee added to municipal water bills or a tax on bottled water. Allan Ritter, chairman of the House committee on Natural Resources, sought a permanent funding mechanism last session. He was unsuccessful. I have no quarrel with the decision to fund $100 million in state water plan programs. But these projects, which are funded with bonds, are in no way to be confused with a permanent source of funding that would continue over the fifty-year life of the water plan. I take issue with the Statesman‘s contention that the water plan has been funded, and I ask the jury for a verdict of not guilty.