EL PASO — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday continued his statewide tour in support of a ballot initiative that, if passed, would tap into the state’s savings account to finance a water development bank for Texas.
Straus, flanked by Democratic legislators from El Paso, urged voters to support Proposition 6, which would allocate $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for projects he said are needed to keep pace with the state’s surging population.
“These constitutional amendment elections don’t trend on Twitter, and they’re not big ratings winners on cable television, but they are very, very important,” he said. Current drought conditions have cost Texas about $11 billion, he added.
Straus spoke at El Paso Water Utilities TechH2O Center, a resource and exhibition center adjacent to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant. Early voting is under way and ends Nov. 1; Election Day is Nov. 5.
The bipartisan support in this far West Texas desert reflects what other members from both parties have said about the plan. Last week, gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican attorney general, and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, expressed their support for the measure. Gov. Rick Perry has also publicly backed it, as has GOP supporter and baseball Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan.
Critics of the measure, including Debra Medina, a Republican candidate for comptroller, have said the one-shot deal won’t help satiate the state’s need for a water plan and would serve special interests.
“There is no doubt investment bankers, lawyers and financial advisors are salivating at the chance to get their hands on $2 billion,” she wrote in an opinion piece last week.
Straus also stressed the importance of conservation planning in Proposition 6. Twenty percent of the proposed projects, he said, are conservation efforts.
Straus also said that Proposition 6 would not raise taxes and that the state’s Rainy Day Fund would remain at optimum levels.
“I think it’s interesting to note and important to note that not only industry supports this and big city mayors that are in El Paso today, but agricultural groups, the Farm Bureau, cattle raisers support this, as do leading conservation groups,” he said.