Simpson's suggestion helps sink water bill in Texas House
May 2, 2013 at 10 p.m.
Inspiration from a Longview Republican helped Democrats in Austin defeat a GOP proposal this week to use the state's emergency reserves for major water projects.
House Bill 11 <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/state/lawmakers-shut-off-water-fund-bill-debate/article_c988b05b-ab69-5aa6-b8d5-f988929f51f8.html">fell Monday on a parliamentary maneuver</a> raised by Texas House Democrats, led by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. The bill would have set aside $2 billion from the so-called rainy day fund as the first-ever dedicated funding source for lake building, cross-state pipelines and other projects in the state's 50-year water plan.
Simpson's objection to dipping into the $11.8 billion account, which is raised from fees on oil and gas activity, differed from that of Democrats. The minority party wants to use the money for public schools as well as water needs in the growing state.
Simpson, R-Longview, said Thursday that he merely reminded Turner of a House rule forbidding the transfer of money from the state's general fund to other accounts during the first 118 days of the 140-day session. Turner and a Democratic coalition took it from there to sink the GOP plan.
"I didn't make the rule," Simpson said. "And I don't enforce the rules. That was a widely known rule. Sylvester was perfectly acquainted with it. If I would have brought it up, I probably would have been overruled. ... (Democrats) were making all kinds of objections. I just brought the news that this didn't happen to be in line with the rules."
Simpson said he is supportive of the state's need for an improved water infrastructure. Private investors stand to earn good money on those projects and should fund them, he said.
"It's really not about water," Simpson said. "It's about banking, and state-sponsored banking. ... I'm afraid of getting in the investment banking business. ... Capital is attractive (because of low interest rates), and it's available for private services."
The Senate already has approved taking $5.7 billion from the fund for water and transportation spending.
Simpson said he does not have a blanket objection to using the rainy day fund, as has been reported.
"That's not true," he said. "I'd use it to pay down debt. I'd also use it to rectify our reliance on dedicated funds" diverted to other uses.