As the Texas Legislature begins to approach its mandatory adjournment on May 29, the most important bill in the session, and what many people believe is the most important bill to face lawmakers in decades, the bill designed to raise money to find and exploit new water sources, is stalled with no momentum toward passage, 1200 WOAI news reports.
J. Bruce Bugg, who heads the Governor's Economic Development Corporation, says a failure to reach agreement on a water bill would deal a death blow to the state's economy.
"This is a Texas issue, and it is a Texas issue of absolute and vital importance to San Antonio and South Texas," Bugg said.
Governor Perry proposed taking $2 billion from the state's 'Rainy Day Fund,' to provide the Texas Water Development Board with seed money to make revolving loans to local water agencies, like the San Antonio Water System, to develop water projects ranging from new dams and reservoirs, to pipelines bringing water in from east Texas, to new solutions like removing the slat from brackish underground aquifer water to make it drinkable.
But there was strong opposition to the proposal from the start. Environmentalists first complained that the proposal was too heavy on creation of new projects, and they demanded that 50% of that money go to water conservation projects.
Then Tea Party Republicans said they oppose the use of any money from the Rainy Day Fund, saying the fund is for emergencies like hurricanes, to make sure Texas, in their words, isn't 'standing there with it's hand out, like New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, waiting for the federal government to come to their rescue.'
Then Democrats, especially in the House, piled on, demanding that an equal amount of money be taken from the Rainy Day Fund for education and social programs. Democrats are still smarting that Perry refused to tap the Rainy Day Fund back in 2011 to avoid major cuts to public schools during the 'recession session.'
Due largely to all this opposition, House Bill 11, the water bill, was among the measures that died on the 'Witching Hour' Thursday at midnight.
The Rainy Day Fund is replenished by money from oil and gas royalies, and due to the booming Eagle Ford, is expected to have more than $11 billion in it by the time the current budget biennium ends in August of 2015.
Now Bugg says it is critical that the Legislature act to revive the measure and pass it before Sine Die two weeks from Wednesday.
"You figure out from the Texas Legislative point of view, but take action now," Bugg said. "Increase our water supply."