On November 5, Texas voters will be asked to support or reject ten proposed amendments to the state constitution. All are important. All may test our collective understanding. I haven’t the space or the knowledge to deal with all ten propositions, but three are significant environmental issues that deserve comment.
Proposition 2: "The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas."
It seems impossible, but in 2019 in the richest country in the world, in the state of Texas, one of the most prosperous states in the country, we have communities without safe water or safe sewage disposal systems. Such unsafe conditions exist, not because people in those communities don’t care, but because they lack the resources to correct those conditions. This amendment would create a state program to make grants to assist economically distressed areas for infrastructure projects to correct these unsafe conditions. Local recipients would match the grants and would be responsible for maintaining the infrastructure.
Proposition 5: "The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas' natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes."
State law already requires that sales tax receipts from sporting goods be used for state parks and the historic sites. Unfortunately, our legislators have found ways to not fully comply with that law. This would place the requirement into the constitution. Funds would be placed in a separate account that could only be used for the stated purposes.
Proposition 5 is a huge step in the right direction. It would ensure a healthy funding stream somewhat higher than the current budget. It would allow program managers to plan for maintenance and improvement projects with a higher degree of certainty that plans can be implemented. But the measure is probably not a panacea. Our parks currently have a huge backlog of deferred maintenance; and, as our population continues to grow, we will have a need for more parks. Even with this amendment, the legislature will still likely be faced with issues related to the needs of our parks.
Proposition 8: "The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects."
Whether it is related to hurricanes or torrential rains, Texas is prone to flooding. Some of that flooding could be mitigated or controlled with well-considered and managed projects. Projects might be constructed or they could be natural projects, conserving natural features that tend to mitigate flooding. This program would make loans—or perhaps grants—to local governments for such projects. Coordination among local governments would be required as would a repayment plan. The authors expect that much of this funding will be used to match federal programs, leveraging more dollars in total.
Funding is a one time transfer from the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund). Repayments would allow future loans.
All ten of these propositions are important. Learn about them by going to Vote411.org and vote on Tuesday November 5.