Texas Water-Stewardship Tax Amendment, Proposition 8 (2011)
|Referred by:||Texas Legislature|
Proposition 8 aimed to encourage Texans to use their water more efficiently by providing tax incentives for certain landowners to conserve water. If passed Proposition 8 would have amended the constitution to add water stewardship to the list of land uses that can be appraised on productive capacity to qualify for tax breaks.The constitution already allowed for open-space land dedicated to farming, ranching, wildlife management (including erosion control and habitat stewardship), and timber production to be appraised in this manner.
- See also: 2011 ballot measure election results
|Texas Proposition 8|
Text of measure
The ballot text read:
"The constitutional amendment providing for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water-stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity."
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
According to the fiscal note:
- "No fiscal implication to the State is anticipated, other than the cost of publication."
- "The cost to the state for publication of the resolution is $105,495."
- "No fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated."
Record-breaking droughts and devastating wildfires reeked havoc on the Lone Star State in 2011. The Lower Colorado River Authority reported that "the 11 months from October 2010 through August 2011 have been the driest for that 11-month period in Texas since 1895.” Economists estimate over $5.2 billion just in agricultural losses as a result of the prolonged drought. Texas will continually be forced to face the realities imposed by extreme climate conditions intersecting sustained population growth. This had many Texans thinking about their state's ability to adequately supply them with water in the coming years.
Lawmakers seeking solutions to ever-worsening shortages placed two water-related constitutional amendments on the November ballot, one of which was Proposition 8. If passed Proposition 8 would have amended the constitution to add water stewardship to the list of land uses that can be appraised on productive capacity to qualify for tax breaks.The constitution currently allows for open-space land dedicated to farming, ranching, wildlife management (including erosion control and habitat stewardship), and timber production to be appraised in this manner.
- Bill author: State Senator Craig Estes
- Bill co-author: State Senator Kirk Watson
- Texas State House sponsors: Allan Ritter
- Nature Conservancy of Texas
- Mary Kay Inc.
- Greater Houston Partnership
- Sierra Club 
- Texas Wildlife Association
- National Wildlife Federation
- Hill Country Conservancy
- Hill Country Alliance
- Houston Wilderness
- Austin Chamber of Commerce
- Texas Land Trust Council
- Texas Society for Ecological Restoration
- Texas Impact
- San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- Texas Association of Business
Supporters of SJR 16 said:
- This amendment is a critical step in encouraging conservation of Texas's increasingly scarce water resources. Water shortages are an increasing threat to the state and the State Water Plan names voluntary land stewardship as a suggested prevention strategy. Proposition 8 will incentivize land owners to use water resources more efficiently as well as protect water quality. 
- "Proposition 8 would not provide a new tax exemption or lower valuation, but simply would allow landowners who already qualified for open-space valuation some flexibility to use their land in another way."
- Over 90 percent of the state's water flows through or under private land, so encouraging land owners to conserve is a particularly smart strategy.
- Laura Huffman, the executive director of the Nature Conservancy of Texas, described the problem faced by increasing population and limited water supply as "There are a lot more straws in the water." She summed up the Nature Conservancy's support for Proposition 8 by stating that ensuring a stable water supply "is the choke point on our state being successful."
- Glen Webb, President of the Texas Wildlife Association, explained his organization's support for Prop 8 saying: “Proposition 8 will provide Texas property owners more options for managing their property and another tool in their stewardship efforts. The measure will also help Texas landowners keep their family land intact by providing for tax valuation that recognizes these important water stewardship efforts.”
According to the state campaign finance database, there were no registered committees (PACs).
(last updated December 2011)
Opponents of SJR 16 said:
- Opponents of the bill said the proposed changes are redundant because they duplicate already available tax incentives for erosion control and habitat stewardship.
- We Texans, a limited-government and economic freedom advocacy organization, opposed Proposition 8. In an October 19, 2011 post they explained their reasoning: "The proposal would ultimately require the Parks and Wildlife Department to set standards for determining whether land qualified for appraisal based on water stewardship. This amendment only serves to further complicate the property appraisal and exemptions process currently in place in Texas. The proposal thwarts justice and shifts the burden of the cost of local government to the shoulders of others in the community."
- Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative and pro-family advocacy organization, opposed Proposition 8. In an October 7th, 2011 post they explained their reasoning: "This amendment was promoted by the radical environmental group Nature Conservancy. These environmentalists want to take away water rights from private property owners. Any landowner willing to take this new exemption will soon have the state dictating how their water is managed."
|Taxes on the ballot in 2011|
According to the state campaign finance database, there were registered committees (PACs).
(last updated December 2011)
Media editorial positions
- The San Antonio Express-News supported Prop 8: In a October 4, 2011 editorial the San Antonio Express-News supported Proposition 8 stating that "Proposition 8 is a creative and fiscally conservative approach to enhancing Texas' water supply at a time when funding for the state water plan is lacking. We urge Texas voters to cast their ballots for Proposition 8."
- The Houston Chronicle supported Prop 8: In a October 17, 2011 editorial the Houston Chronicle supported Proposition 8 stating that "Some of the needed changes to our water laws will almost certainly be controversial. But Proposition 8, on this year's ballot, is easy for everyone to love...The bottom line is this: more and cleaner water for all those thirsty future Texans, at no additional cost to taxpayers. So what's not to love? Vote yes."
- The Lufkin News said, "However, with the importance managing our water resources becoming more important every day, any incentive we can offer to enhance both water quality and quantity is important. We recommend a vote for Proposition 8."
- The Dallas Morning News said, "This constitutional amendment is particularly necessary because most of Texas’ water runs through or under private lands. We need a statewide tool to give landowners a strong incentive to conserve those supplies."
- The Austin Chronicle said,"Author Sen. Kirk Watson describes this amendment as the "first statewide water conservation tool." It doesn't do as much as it should – it's restricted to landowners who already qualify for an agricultural exemption, so "it wouldn't cost the state money" – but it's a step toward greater attention to common water resources and stewardship thereof. It's endorsed by major environmental orgs."
- The Corpus Christi Caller-Times said, "The Caller-Times Editorial Board recommends approval of all 10, and urges that all registered voters exercise their right to vote."
- The El Paso Times said, "As any Texan knows, water and water conservation are vital to the state's success and survival. And this wouldn't involve any tax increases."
- The Statesman said, "Ten proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution are on the ballot for your approval or disapproval. We recommend you vote for all 10."
- The Star-Telegram supported Prop 8.
- The Conroe Courier of Montgomery County opposed Prop 8: In a October 22, 2011 editorial the Conroe Courier of Montgomery County opposed Proposition 8 stating that "Another proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot, Proposition 8, would provide for the appraisal of ad valorem tax purposes open-space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity...Some argue it only would transfer wealth from one group of landowners to another. Most of these landowners involved in agriculture and ranching already receive tax breaks. Conservation of water already should be a part of their daily business. They do not need another tax break incentive to conserve water — it already is in their best interests. We do not support Proposition 8."
- The Burka Blog, written by senior editor for the Texas Monthly Paul Burka, opposed Proposition 8. In an October 18, 2011 post he stated "Another tax break. I guess this means that if a landowner builds a stock tank or a fishing lake, he gets a tax break. NO MORE TAX BREAKS!"
Path to the ballot
- See also: Laws governing direct democracy in Texas
As laid out in Article 17 of the Texas Constitution, in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, the Texas State Legislature must propose the amendment in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate. The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.
The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:
|House vote||May 26, 2011||The House voted 135-7 in favor of the proposed measure|
|Senate vote||May 26, 2011||The Senate voted 30-1 in favor of the proposed measure|
|Certified||May 27, 2011||Measure received by the Secretary of State for the 2011 ballot|
| By Jimmy Ardis|
Texas state writer
|Email • Submit a link|
- Election aftermath: 7 Texas amendments approved, 3 defeated
- Texans to vote on ten constitutional amendments next week
- Texas burns at record levels, water issues take focus in November election
- Texas House Research Organization: "Focus Report for Amendments Proposed in November 8, 2011 Election"
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Texas House Research Organization: "Focus Report for Amendments Proposed in November 8, 2011 Election"
- ↑ Texas Secretary of State, "Explanatory Statements for the November 8, 2011 Texas Constitutional Amendment Election"
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Fiscal Note on SJR 16 prepared by the Texas Legislative Budget Board
- ↑ Scientific American, "The Coming Crisis Over Water", September 27, 2011
- ↑ AgriLife Today, "Texas agricultural drought losses reach record $5.2 billion", August 17, 2011
- ↑ 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 Texans for Prop 8, "Support"
- ↑ San Angelo Standard Times, "It's time to stop taking water for granted", September 28, 2011
- ↑ Gardennews.biz, "Support for Water Stewardship Amendment, Prop 8 Grows ", October 7, 2011
- ↑ We Texans", "PROPOSITIONS VOTERS’ GUIDE: Just Say No", October 19, 2011
- ↑ Texas Eagle Forum, "Analysis of Propositions on November 8th 2011 Ballott", October 7, 2011
- ↑ San Antonio Express-News, "Proposition 8 deserves support from Texans", October 4, 2011
- ↑ Houston Chronicle, "Prop 8: Vote yes for Texas' water", October 17, 2011
- ↑ The Lufkin Daily News,"EDITORIAL: A review and our recommendations on 5 amendments to our state constitution," October 26, 2011
- ↑ Dallas Morning News,"Editorial: Proposition 8 would help Texas conserve water," October 9, 2011
- ↑ Austin Chronicle,"'Chronicle' Endorsements and Election Info," October 21, 2011
- ↑ Caller-Times,"10 unexciting but worthwhile reasons to vote," October 24, 2011
- ↑ El Paso Times,"Propositions: No. 7 affects only El Paso," October 23, 2011
- ↑ Statesman,"Voters, approve all 10 constitutional changes," November 1, 2011
- ↑ Star-Telegram,"Texas Constitution needs more attention," November 6, 2011
- ↑ Conroe Courier of Montgomery County, "Vote against Props 7 and 8 on Nov. 8 ballot", October 22, 2011
- ↑ Burka Blog, "The proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments", October 18, 2011