PROPOSALS EMERGE FOR FUNDING STATE WATER PLAN
Recently proposed amendments to H.J.R. 138 by Ritter seek to fund the state water plan in part through “tap fees” (sometimes referred to as a “state tax on water”) to be levied on “municipal” (generally city and special district) water customers.
What makes the H.J.R. 138 proposals different from past tap fee proposals is that, because it is a constitutional amendment, it may be implemented only after a statewide election of the citizens. Thus, rather than a fee imposed by the state legislature, the fee would be imposed on the state’s water users only with their consent.
The fact that the tap fees could be implemented only with the voters’ consent does not resolve several important city objections to the fees: (1) the use of local city staff and infrastructure to collect fees for the state; (2) the redistribution of revenue collected in densely-populated urban areas to projects built all over the state; and (3) the fact that the tap fees are not levied on industrial or agricultural users, just municipal users.
At a hearing on the proposals before the House Natural Resources Committee, some legislators seemed to suggested that cities should acquiesce to the tap fee proposal. That would seem to indicate that cities don’t sufficiently contribute to water infrastructure in the state. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
As city officials already know, cities are a vital part of the state’s water infrastructure and planning process, both through participation in planning as well as construction and maintenance of the infrastructure that supplies water to millions of Texans daily, both inside and outside of city limits. Among other contributions, cities assist the state as a whole with participation in regional water planning by constructing and maintaining thousands of miles of water and wastewater mains and other water supply infrastructure, and through the payment of millions of dollars annually in fees to help fund the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The League will continue to work with the author of H.J.R. 138 to ensure that municipal interests are protected.