Proposed bill would up infrastructure funding

August 26, 2011 4:59:27 PM PDT
We are still in the midst of a damaging drought that's put stress on both Texas agriculture and on its water infrastructure. But a proposed change to the Texas constitution could help alleviate some of our water issues by providing more money.

Proposition 2 is on the ballot this November. If voters approve it, an agency that provides a lot of money for infrastructure statewide will be able to loan billions more, money that will repair and build the pipes that carry water to and from our homes.

Any given day this summer and you can probably find a broken water main like the one we found in southeast Houston on Friday afternoon.

"I ain't never ever see conditions like this before," Houston resident Dale Fisher said.

Fisher says he drives a lot for work and has seen a lot breaks.

"Pretty much every little different area of Houston I go, I see a water break," he said.

It does seem like its everywhere. And it's not just Houston trying to fix what's breaking and pay for it.

"We need the money. Everybody needs the money. Everybody has aging infrastructure -- water and wastewater," said Susan Bandy with the City of Houston Public Works Department.

So we know the infrastructure isn't getting any younger and it isn't going to fix itself, which is why the state feels it needs a bigger pile of money to pull from so it can do more good.

In fact, a lot of the money Houston uses for these fixes and for new water pipes comes from the state in the form of a low interest loan. Right now, Houston has more than $489 million in those loans brokered through the Texas Water Development Board.

"We call ourselves a bank," said Melanie Callahan with the Texas Water Development Board.

The TWDB, as it's called, issues bonds to then loan money to whoever qualifies. But it's running out of cash.

Houston, which historically gets about $60 million a year, is finding the money drying up.

"Not getting quite as much now because it is very competitive," Bandy said.

But Proposition 2 would allow the TWDB to loan out as much as $6 billion at one time as cities ask for it.

"The population's been growing, water and waste water infrastructure is getting stressed. And then you add the drought on top of that. So there's a lot of needs," Callahan said.

That $ 6 billion would be a drop in the bucket. The TWDB estimates there is $230 billion worth of long term infrastructure need statewide. It's a lot of need which Fisher and the rest of us have seen bubble up from the ground more than usual this summer.

"The issue of water in Texas is going to be up front in a lot of people's minds in the coming decades," Bandy said.

Earlier this week, Gov. Perry set November 8 as the date you can vote on Proposition 2 along with nine other constitutional amendments.

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