Texas to take up water financing, but to what degree remains open question San Antonio Express-News Copyright 2012 San Antonio Express-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Published 9:14 p.m., Thursday, November 22, 2012 The 2011 drought, which was at its most crippling after the last legislative session ended, terrified constituents in both rural and urban areas, as wildfires burned, crops wilted, cattle died, and lawn sprinklers were shut off. [...] when they return to Austin in January to take up state business, lawmakers seem likely to balk at putting aside the cash to pay for the billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements laid out in the state water plan. Interviews with lawmakers, lobbyists and environmental activists indicate that the political thorniness of raising or shifting revenue and the distractions posed by other issues, such as education, will make consensus difficult. Grassroots tea partiers, a driving force in Republican primaries who are generally opposed to any money-raising ploys; and deep-pocketed industries, a similar force among Republican donors, who badly want the state to build new reservoirs and pipelines so that they can build new power plants and new subdivisions. Lawmakers might need two forms of money — a one-time lump-sum kick-start and a smaller dedicated stream of money — for a low-interest loan program administered by the state water development board. The lump-sum money, which would have to be several hundred million dollars to make any serious dent in water infrastructure needs laid out in the state plan, could come from the state's rainy day fund, which has at least $8 billion. [...] Debra Medina, one-time gubernatorial candidate and now executive director of We Texans, a tea-party-minded advocacy group, said that she “doesn't like these (spending decisions) at the state level.” Depending on the sway of that sensibility, legislation to steer money into water projects, especially a bottle tax or a tap fee, the sort of revenue raising measures that tea partiers find off-putting, could be stymied. There is no legislative appetite, he said, for any statewide tax or fee to pay for water projects, though he said it is possible the state would take as much as $1 billion from the rainy day fund to kick-start water infrastructure financing. State Sen.

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