Updated, 2:35 p.m.:
Visiting San Angelo’s O.C. Fisher Reservoir on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Perry stressed the need for Texas voters to pass Proposition 6 when they head to the polls on Nov. 5.
“If Texas is to remain the best place to live, work, grow your business or raise your family, we must ensure adequate supplies for generations to come,” Perry said in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allocate $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for water-planning initiatives.
“We stand at a historic crossroads, with a prime opportunity to meet our water needs for ourselves and generations of future Texans,” Perry added.
The reservoir where Perry made his remarks is completely dry, according to San Angelo State Park Superintendent Kurt Kemp. In February, data from the Texas Water Development Board showed O.C. Fisher 0.8 percent full.
Prop 6 would allow for a one-time investment from the Rainy Day Fund – the state’s savings account – to create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. The money would assist cities, like San Angelo, in financing water projects, such as building new reservoirs or implementing conservation programs. The fund is designed to leverage billions of dollars for water projects over the next 50 years.
The persistent drought afflicting West Texas has essentially turned some of the region’s lakes and reservoirs into oversized puddles, unfit for any kind of recreation.
“Not much you can do when it doesn’t rain,” said Kurt Kemp, the superintendent for San Angelo State Park, whose O.C. Fisher Reservoir has had water levels so low for the last year that it’s not fit for swimming, boating or fishing.
The region’s extreme conditions make San Angelo an appropriate backdrop as Gov. Rick Perry is set to speak there Wednesday about why it's important for voters to back a constitutional amendment in November that provides funds for state water planning initiatives.
Perry’s speech will stress the importance that passing Proposition 6 will "allow the state to finance water projects that will ensure that we have that vital resource for the next 50 years," said Josh Havens, a spokesman for the governor.
Havens added that Perry's talk Wednesday about Prop 6 will be the first of many the governor will make ahead of Election Day.
Prop 6 asks voters to approve a $2 billion withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund to set up a water infrastructure bank that will provide money for water conservation programs, reservoirs and other projects. The proposed constitutional amendment was created by Senate Joint Resolution 1, which was authored by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“There's nothing more important to future economic development than having an adequate supply of water in the state,” Perry said in late April following his meeting with the Texas House GOP Caucus about his priorities for the remainder of the 83rd Legislature.
As the governor prepares to make his remarks, several state lawmakers are also working to persuade voters to approve Prop 6.
Williams and fellow state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, are honorary co-chairmen of H204Texas — a political action committee focused on passing Prop 6. Ritter and House Speaker Joe Straus are heading up Water Texas PAC.
But several conservatives oppose the amendment, arguing that pulling money from the Rainy Day Fund would endanger Texas' economic health. They say that if water is the priority that proponents say it is, then funding for the state plan should come out of the state’s general revenue budget.
In an op-ed written during the session’s debate over the legislation, Perry wrote, "If we want to retain our status as the nation’s epicenter for job creation, we need to address this issue now, and address it aggressively."