On April 12 the House Committee on Natural Resources took up and heard testimony concerning HJR138 and HB3273 by Ritter, both relating to the creation and funding of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas to assist the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) in the funding of certain projects included in the state water plan. HJR 138 and HB 3273 would allow voters to authorize a special account known as the State Water Implementation Fund for the financing of projects included in the State Water Plan. HB 3273 defines the fund, its content and uses, and provides for transfers to other specific accounts and the receipt of funds into them. Furthermore, HB 3273 provides that 20% of the money available in the fund must be used to finance conservation and reuse projects included in the State Water Plan. In Tuesday’s flash, HillCo provided the text to a single amendment proposed to HB 3273 and to three amendments proposed to HJR 138.

The proposed amendment to HB 3273 would allow the TWDB to use money to provide financing, or pay the principle or interest, on bonds issued by the TWDB for projects essentially creating a revolving fund. Ritter argued this capitalization would save taxpayer monies over the long-term by funding $1.5 billion over 10 years, instead of the $7.5 billion over 50 years that would be required under the current methodology of debt issuance.

HJR 138 saw three amendments that proposed possible revenue source for the State Water Implementation Fund. Amendment 1 proposed the repeal of the state bottled water sales tax exemption, which as projected would create $71 million/year in revenue for the state and $21 million/year in revenue for local governments. The amendment does not include non-packaged bulk water delivered by tanker truck and dispensed into residential systems or wells, nor water sold at community dispensers. Witnesses argued the negative effects on emergency preparedness and disaster planning would be barriers to enacting Amendment 1. Proposed Amendment 2 places a connections fee of $1.50/month on public water supply connections, exempting governmental and institutional water connections and creating $156 million/year in revenue to the state. Proposed Amendment 3 establishes a water conservation and development fee of .14 cents/1,000 gallons of water sold by utilities to retail utility customers, also exempting governmental and institutional water users while creating $149 million/year in revenue to the state. Those testifying in opposition to Amendments 2 and 3 argued the amendments would marginalize industry and stated any new fees or taxes implemented to provide revenue for the State Water Plan need to be applicable to the largest percentage of Texans possible.

Both HJR 138 and HB 3273 were left pending before the Committee.