Vol 30, Issue 39 Print Issue

Guest Column: Vote Yes on Prop 6 — We Need the Water

Gov. Rick Perry speaks with a reporter on Feb. 21, 2012, a month after dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Gov. Rick Perry speaks with a reporter on Feb. 21, 2012, a month after dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Texas voters have the opportunity in November to make one of the most significant investments in the future of this state in generations — and it won’t raise taxes one penny to do so.

Proposition 6 presents an opportunity to help our state meet its projected water needs for the next five decades without adding more to the burden of Texas taxpayers. Essentially, it allows the state to move a portion of the money already in one state savings account — the Rainy Day Fund — to a new savings account dedicated to funding water projects across the state. It’s a fiscally prudent investment in the future of Texas.

Our booming economy, rapidly growing population and the drought that has plagued most of the state for years are combining to stress our ability to meet our water demands. If we do nothing to address these needs, we place at risk the health and well-being of future generations.

Even today, there are Texas families whose water must be trucked in to meet basic needs, like cooking dinner, taking baths and brushing teeth. This is not a sustainable future for Texas in terms of quality of life, or livelihoods.

To delay acting is both needless and painful, will ultimately cost taxpayers billions more than necessary, and will risk stalling the economic prosperity and job creation we’ve enjoyed over the past decade.

For decades, some lawmakers have sounded the clarion call about the need to conserve and expand our state’s water resources, and members of our business community have made it clear that adequate water supplies are key to continuing the sort of economic expansion we’ve established.

While those efforts resulted in the adoption of a quality state water plan in 2012, drafted from the ground up — thanks to the leadership and expertise of local authorities — it’s been much more challenging to fund the infrastructure these plans call for.

Last summer, however, we found a way — without raising taxes and without dipping into general revenue, all while preserving our Rainy Day Fund and protecting the state’s AAA credit rating.

Prop 6 gives us the unique opportunity to address a critical need while saving billions in taxpayer dollars, turning $2 billion in seed money into $30 billion in much-needed financial assistance for water projects across our state. By using this revolving fund model instead of paying for it piecemeal out of general revenue, we stand to save upwards of $6 billion in taxpayer dollars over the next 50 years.

Again, this is a plan that was crafted hand-in-hand with local authorities, ensuring that the people who best understand the projects they need are the ones calling the shots.

Further, this move would leave the Rainy Day Fund with more than enough to both protect our credit rating — which was recently raised to the highest rating possible — and keep us ready for any emergencies.

Because of our economic strength, the Rainy Day Fund has reached historic highs. Even with a one-time transfer of funds to address our water needs, we’ll still have an estimated $8.3 billion in reserve.

A recent report by the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, in fact, indicates the Rainy Day Fund might even reach its legislatively mandated capacity within the next four years, even after transferring funds to deal with water and transportation infrastructure.

How many other states would — or could — jump at the chance to solve a major challenge like this without raising taxes?

And make no mistake — other states are watching. They know that if we choose to ignore this opportunity, it will severely hamper our ability to compete for and win expansion or relocation bids involving major employers.

Prop 6 is a way to protect Texas’ future, affordably and responsibly.

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas.