Fund water before tax breaks

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On Friday, April 26, Gov. Rick Perry announced that he was willing to call a special session of the Legislature this summer to get his biggest priorities passed. Those priorities include about $3.7 billion in water and transportation investment and $1.6 billion in tax cuts for businesses.

We support funding water and transportation, but combining desperately-needed funding with tax cuts like the ones Perry has proposed is counterintuitive and damaging to the state. 

Funding water management adequately and quickly is imperative. Perry cites business needs as the main reason to invest in water resource management and transportation. “Whenever we’re recruiting a business seeking to relocate or expand, a chief concern of theirs is ensuring there are adequate water, power and transportation systems for their needs,” Perry said in his State of the State Address in January, when he proposed the $3.7 billion investment.

Perry has reason to be concerned about drought scaring away business. Dan Hardin, water resource planning director for the TWDB, told The Daily Texan on April 5 that the state economy would lose $12 billion a year if current drought conditions continue and meaningful legislation is not passed.          

 Perry’s other stated priority for a special session, granting a new tax cut to businesses by reducing the state’s franchise tax is, however, cause for concern. The issue of water scarcity is only going to get worse, and future affordability must be taken into account. Even with an $8.8 billion surplus to work with this legislative session, proposals to fund the projects outlined in the TWDB’s 2012 State Water Plan have come right up against the state’s constitutionally-mandated spending cap. 

The state will need all the revenue it can get in coming years to heed the TWDB’s warnings. That will necessitate sacrifice from both businesses and average citizens. And the economic benefits of tax cuts will be far outweighed by the costs of unsustainable growth and water shortages.