WATER FUNDING BILLS TAKE BALANCED APPROACH
Legislation filed last week by Rep. Allan Ritter (R – Nederland) would tap the state’s “rainy day fund” to be used as “seed money” to build necessary water infrastructure over the next several decades. The first of two related bills, H.B. 4, would create a “State Water Implementation Fund” outside the normal state treasury to be used only to fund projects within the State Water Plan, with no less than 20 percent of expenditures from the fund to be used for conservation projects.
The second bill, H.B. 11, would transfer $2 billion from the rainy day fund into the new implementation fund created by H.B. 4. The $2 billion would then be available to finance needed water infrastructure. As the money gets repaid with interest, the fund is projected to grow to a size sufficient to underwrite all of the $53 billion in needed infrastructure identified in the State Water Plan over the coming decades.
The approach taken by these two bills, which appear to have the support of key state leadership, is good news for cities. While past water funding schemes would have placed a “tap fee” on city water bills to finance water projects, Representative Ritter’s idea leverages only state money at the outset. This gives cities within their regions the option of pursuing necessary projects as they see fit. While the costs of either approach are ultimately borne by water consumers, the advantage offered by the current plan is that of local control instead of a one-size-fits all water tax.
The League, along with numerous other organizations, has offered its support to Chairman Ritter. A letter in support of these bills can be read here.