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Summary: SJR 1 would amend Texas’ Constitution to establish the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas as a new fund in the state treasury outside of General Revenue to be administered by the Texas Water Development Board (board) to implement the state water plan. SJR 1’s goal is to assist the board in providing low-cost financial assistance to local and regional water providers for projects currently identified in the 2012 State Water Plan. This new fund would join two other Texas Water Development Funds enshrined in Texas’ Constitution that the board can use to undertake these types of projects.
This new fund created by SJR 1 would give the board another tool to use to make loans for water projects, pay debt obligations, and enter into bond enhancement agreements. The new fund would consist of any money transferred or deposited into the fund, the proceed of any tax or fee imposed by the state directed to the fund or any other revenue directed to the fund by the legislature, investment earnings directed to the fund, or money transferred to the account in a bond enhancement agreement.
Analysis: The Texas Water Development Board is not short on tools to finance water projects. The board already has two Texas Water Development Funds; creating another would be an unnecessary expansion of government. Moreover, this new fund would be in addition to another fund created by HB 4 earlier this session.
The real problem with establishing this new fund outside of General Revenue is that it is not transparent. The legislature would direct funds into the account in various ways, but it would ultimately be up to the board to decide how the funds are spent, making the process less transparent to taxpayers than if the projects were funded with General Revenue. Also, this fund would serve as a vehicle to finance spending that does not count toward Texas' spending cap. We believe the state spending cap is valuable because it serves as a hard limit on government spending. We are not in favor of circumventing this cap, even for purposes as important as water infrastructure. We oppose SJR 1.