HOUSTON—That stormy weather blowing through Texas Thursday came at a curious time.
As rainwater rose in Houston streets and swelled the city’s bayous, polling places were welcoming early voters casting ballots on a proposition that’s all about the state’s water supply.
Proposition 6 would authorize the use of $2-billion from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to provide low-cost financing for projects that would help Texas meet its future water demands. The unprecedented drought of 2011 -- blamed for everything from wildfires to devastating losses for farmers and ranchers—brought a new sense of urgency to the problem and created fertile ground for political discussion of the state’s water issues.
The proposal passed by the Legislature with bipartisan support is convoluted, but it would basically create something like an investment bank loaning money for community water projects. It would create two new funds called the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT), then shift $2-billion from the Rainy Day Fund to the SWIFT. The money would then help provide low-cost financing for projects in the state water plan.
The plan has attracted widespread support and only minor opposition, with about a third of the ballots cast in Harris County. That’s mainly because Houston’s holding a mayoral race and Harris County voters are deciding the fate of the Astrodome. A well-financed campaign has peppered the local television airwaves with commercials touting Proposition 6.
Political analysts have predicted that high voter turnout in Houston could propel Proposition 6 to victory. All of which makes the rain falling in the city more noteworthy.
“The simple fact is the voters who are showing up in this election are very informed, attentive and older voters,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University professor who’s also KHOU’s political analyst. “They know what the problem is. They’re not persuaded by a couple of days of rain. They know the state has a serious water problem, not only due to the drought, but also our burgeoning population size and our really underfunded infrastructure.”