DALLAS — A political action committee headed by two Texas legislative leaders will promote passage of a constitutional amendment setting up a $2 billion water infrastructure bond bank.
Voters will decide Nov. 5 on the amendment, which would authorize the use of $2 billion from the state's rainy-day fund for the revolving loan bond bank.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is the honorary chairman of Water Texas PAC. Rep. Allan Ritter, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and sponsor of the enabling legislation, is treasurer of the PAC.
Organizational papers were filed July 30 with the Texas secretary of state.
"The Legislature took historic action to address our water needs this year, and pas- sage of this amendment is the next step in that process," Straus said Thursday.
The ongoing drought in Texas brought the need for secure water supplies to the public's attention, Straus said.
"We have all seen the devastating effects that severe drought can have on our farms, our communities and our entire economy," he said. "I encourage all Texans to help build support for this amendment so that we can have the reliable supplies of water needed for continued economic growth."
The November election is the best chance in years for taking action to meet the state's water demands over the next half-century, according to Straus.
"No other legislation is as directly tied to our economic success," Straus said. "The recent drought has cost Texas billions of dollars in economic activity, while
leaders of other states point to our water challenges as they try to prevent jobs from moving here."
Legislative auditors said the $2 billion bond fund could leverage up to $30 billion for water projects over the next 50 years. Water conservation efforts must be included in the mix of supply solutions.
HB 4, signed into law in late May by Gov. Rick Perry, created the State Water Implementation Fund and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund.
Perry said the bond bank will secure adequate water supplies for generations, even with the expected rapid population growth "by creating new funds that will support local and regional projects and lower the cost of issuing bonds" for much-needed water projects.
"These measures will help address the increased demand population growth will have on our water needs now and into the future," Perry said.
The water infrastructure funds will be overseen by the Texas Water Development Board, which can issue general obligation or revenue bonds.
The $2 billion deposit from the $12 billion rainy-day fund will fund the revolving loan program for local and regional water providers. The loans will be repaid with proceeds from local water revenue bonds.
Texas in 2011 experienced the driest conditions in its recorded history. Recent rains have eased the drought, but it is expected to worsen through the rest of 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in July. Conditions in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans indicate the drought could extend for another five years, meteorologists said.