At a time when debt is being used like some other four-letter words around Washington, D.C., Texas voters are being asked to approve public borrowing of billions of dollars.
Texans will decide on 10 amendments to the state constitution Tuesday. Early voting ended Friday. Interest in the proposed changes has been fairly muted, though conservative groups are urging "no" votes on some, in the name of fiscal restraint.
Amendments drawing opposition include:
Proposition 2, which would let the Texas Water Development Board issue $6 billion in bonds. The board in turn would lend the money to local entities to pay for water, wastewater and flood control projects, and repayments on the loans will pay off the bonds.
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Proposition 3, which would allow the state to issue general-obligation bonds for a long-standing student loan program.
Proposition 4, which would give counties authority to issue bonds to fund so-called reinvestment zones and use property taxes from those areas to repay the loans.
Conservative groups such as Empower Texans and We Texans, run by former gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, have publicly opposed these propositions. So too have Tea Party groups including the Houston Tea Party and the 912 Project Fort Worth.
Proponents have said the propositions are geared toward goals that most Texans support, such as addressing the state's long-term water needs and boosting access to student loans.
"When they are constitutional amendments that we passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature, I'm not really surprised that it's as quiet as it is," House Speaker Joe Straus said. "Not a bad thing from where we sit."
State Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, was the only lawmaker voting against putting Propositions 2, 3 and 4 before voters. Taylor said he thinks elected officials should have to regularly consider and vote to continue allowing large amounts of borrowing. Putting the programs in the constitution makes them more likely to continue in perpetuity, he said.
"It is a mistake for the Legislature to create perpetual buckets of debt that will never be paid off," he said. "... The Legislature is giving authority away and watching bureaucrats run amok without input from the citizens."
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