Lawmakers in the Texas Senate wasted no time passing a bill to fund the future of Texas’ water needs, passing Senate Bill 4 by unanimous vote within the stretch of just a few hours.
Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, authored the bill that sets up the structure of awarding 500 water projects over the next 50 years.
The funding component of that bill is tied to a senate joint resolution to use $2 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund, but voters this fall would ultimately decide if that money would be used to pay for the state’s water needs.
Some lawmakers in the House see that move as a bit of a gamble, but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst affirmed the Senate's support.
"It was imperative to us that we wanted to be able to not be in a position to not force to vote to break the constitutional spending cap. And that is why we decided to go to the Rainy Day Fund to take out appropriate funds, still leaving a robust amount in reserves and that is according to the Texas Comptroller," Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst said the state still has $6 billion left over from a previous spending bill on top of the $2 billion tied to the legislation that passed in the senate.
After hours of debate, House Bill 11, which is similar to the Senate bill and was backed by Gov. Rick Perry, failed to pass.
Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, who authored HB 11, said his bill was "doorknob dead" the moment lawmakers started to debate the issue.
Ritter's bill used $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund without voter approval, a move that created a dividing line between Republicans in the House and between Perry and Dewhurst.