What's New . . .
- According to Comptroller Susan Combs, Texas sales tax numbers for the month of April were up $2.07 billion, or 10.9 percent compared to April 2011. These numbers reflect positive growth in the oil and gas sectors, as well as in restaurant and retail trade.
- Committees are continuing to study interim charges given by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Speaker Joe Straus. The Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, which I chair, will meet again on July 10, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. in Austin. The hearing will be held in the Capitol Extension, Room E1.016. You can view postings of all interim committee meetings, view House or Senate hearings live, or review audio/video archives.
- A court date has been set for Texas' school finance lawsuits. State District Judge John Dietz established a tentative trial date of October 22, 2012. This trial will consolidate four lawsuits filed on behalf of hundreds of school districts in the state. As changes or outcomes occur with these proceedings, they will be included in future Email Updates.
Focus . . .
We are fortunate that over the last several months Texas has received some much-needed rain. However, the 2011 drought was the worst one-year drought in Texas history, and it would be a mistake to forget that Texas is still in a water crisis. With much of the state still considered to be in a drought and the summer heat on the way, it is important to focus on water in this Update.
The 2011 drought led to severe declines in aquifer and reservoir levels, compromising water supplies and delivery systems to many public water systems. Early in 2012, the public water systems of 13 towns and cities were projected to run completely out of water within 180 days and Texas reservoirs were at 64 percent of their water storage capacity -- the lowest since 1974 when the state started keeping records.
That the drought captured our attention is the silver lining in the cloud -- the public, elected officials, businesses, industry and farmers are all focused like a laser on the state's limited water supply. The bad news is, if the rain continues and drought conditions continue to improve or are alleviated, we may lose that attention; this would be a grave mistake.
The drought is not over. Even with the rainfall we have seen this winter and spring, we are told that only a major tropical storm or hurricane event can extinguish statewide drought conditions, especially in West Texas where much of the region remains in the two most severe stages of drought. Even in times when the state is not in a drought, water supply is insufficient and becoming more so all the time.
The Water Plan
In Texas today, we have a population of about 25 million. By 2060, the state's population is projected to grow to 46.3 million -- an 82 percent increase over our current population. Put simply, we do not have enough water to support projected future population growth with our current water infrastructure.
Fortunately, planning to meet Texas' future water needs was well underway before the 2011 drought hit the state. In fact, Texas has the best water planning methods in the country. Long-term planning is contained in the State Water Plan, which is a 50-year look forward at the state's water needs. The Plan is updated every five years and the latest five-year plan, the Texas 2012 Water Plan, was published earlier this year.
Unfortunately, the 2012 Water Plan reflects a grim reality, as it states, "Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises." However, part of the purpose of the Water Plan is to identify and recommend water management strategies to meet the state's needs. These strategies must be implemented, but doing so will be costly.
Financing the Water Plan
The Water Plan tells us what needs to be done and how to do it. It also tells us how much implementing the Plan will cost -- $53 billion through 2060. And with delay, this number will go up significantly. Unfortunately, the state has no revenue source devoted to maintaining and developing water supplies. It is critical that the Legislature address how to adequately fund the Water Plan. Over the interim, both the Senate and House are considering possible ways to do this. The difficulty lies in passing legislation to accomplish the goal.
In the meantime, it is important that individually we all strive to conserve water in our homes and in our lives. I ask you to look into conservation measures, as well as talking with your neighbors and community about this issue so that we may all work toward a sustainable goal for our state.
Did You Know...
Texas currently holds more than $2.5 billion in cash and valuables that belong to people who have not claimed it. According to the Texas Comptroller, one in every four Texans has unclaimed property from sources such as forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks and security deposits. You can go to ClaimItTexas.org to search the state's unclaimed property database to see if you are the rightful owner of any of this money and how to claim it.
In Closing . . .
Remember, the Texas Primary is next Tuesday, May 29! Early voting runs through Friday, May 25. To find your polling location and sample ballot visit www.dalcoelections.org. Please remember our service men and women and have a safe Memorial Day weekend.
State Senator - District 16
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.
Dallas, TX 75205