State proposition would direct $200 million to sewers and pipes

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texans will go to the polls this fall. For many, it won’t be for candidates but for the constitution. Early voting has already begun.

If approved, Proposition 2 would open up a pot of money for communities and small towns who can’t install water and sewer pipes on their own.

Towns in Central Texas like Canyon Lake, Harper, Comfort, and the unincorporated area called Green pastures can’t always raise the money locally to put water and sewer pipes in the ground. They look to state lawmakers and the water development board to help pay for water plans in areas in the Economically Distressed Areas Program or EDAP.

“We all know that every single Texan deserves clean water in their home and be healthy and safe. You can’t have that without running water,” Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, told KXAN.

The Water Development Board Program has helped fund projects for 40,000 people according to Zwiener.

The thing is: it’s out of money.

So the proposition would direct $200 million in bonded state debt to the fund for low-interest loans. Zwiener says that new money would pay for about half the planned work projects across the state.

On Thursday, Zwiener will join Representative Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, at a hill country town hall to talk about Proposition 2 and other constitutional amendments. The event will be hosted by the Comal County Conservation Alliance from 6 to 8 p.m. at the McKenna Events Center, 801 San Antonio St. in New Braunfels.

The two representatives will also discuss constitutional amendments for parks, whether to have an income tax and major water projects.

Some conservatives voted against the proposition effort because it would add to state debt but the idea — SJR 79 — passed 114 to 27 in the House; 22-8 in the Senate.

“The reason people are against it are people who are really fiscally responsible. They think it’s free money but it’s not free money. These are low-interest loans,” said Biedermann.

He tells me local areas would have to put up some of the money for the projects. Both Biedermann and Zwiener support Proposition 2.

“We just feel best that the people have a say-so. So give it a statewide and let the people make a decision whether they want these things in law,” said Rep. Biedermann.

Most of the areas in the Economically Distressed Areas Program are in South Texas.

To qualify the median household income must be less than 75% of the statewide median income — so less than $44,500. Those communities can use the money to plan, design, buy, and build water and wastewater projects.

Almost six thousand voters in Travis County have already cast their ballot for the November election. That’s less than 1% of registered voters. Early voting just started Monday.

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