Texas Water-Stewardship Tax Amendment, Proposition 8 (2011)

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Proposition 8
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Referred by:Texas Legislature
Status:On the ballot
The Texas Water-Stewardship Tax Amendment will appear on the November 8, 2011 general election ballot in the state of Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

Proposition 8 aims to encourage Texans to use their water more efficiently by providing tax incentives for certain landowners to conserve water. If passed Proposition 8 would amend the constitution to add water stewardship to the list of land uses that can be appraised on productive capacity to qualify for tax breaks.[1]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.

The author of the measure is Craig Estes, and the formal title of the bill is Senate Joint Resolution 16.

Text of measure

Ballot summary

The ballot text reads as:

"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."[2]

Constitutional changes

See also: Texas Proposition 8 (2011), constitutional text changes

If passed Proposition 8 would amend Section 1-d-1 (a) of Article 8 and add a temporary provision to the Texas Constitution to the Texas Constitution.

Fiscal note

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The Texas Legislative Budget Board issued a fiscal note about SJR 16 to the House Committee on Ways & Means on April 23, 2011.[3]

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."[3]


Record-breaking droughts and devastating wildfires have reeked havoc on the Lone Star State this year. The Lower Colorado River Authority reports that "the 11 months from October 2010 through August 2011 have been the driest for that 11-month period in Texas since 1895.”[4] Economists estimate over $5.2 billion just in agricultural losses as a result of the prolonged drought.[5] Furthermore, population growth continues to put pressures on an already limited water supply. Texas grew 20.6% from 2000 to 2010, more than double the 9.7% national growth rate - a trend that is predicted to continue.[6] Texas will continually be forced to face the realities imposed by extreme climate conditions intersecting sustained population growth. This has 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 have placed two water-related constitutional amendments on the November ballot, one of which is Proposition 8. If passed Proposition 8 would amend the constitution to add water stewardship to the list of land uses that can be appraised on productive capacity to qualify for tax breaks.[1]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.


Texans for Prop 8 ad


  • 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


Supporters of SJR 16 say:

  • 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. [1]
  • "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."[1]
  • 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.[1]
  • 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."[7]


According to the state campaign finance database, there are no registered committees (PACs).

(last updated October 2011)



Opponents of SJR 16 say:

Opponents of the bill say the proposed changes are redundant because they duplicate already available tax incentives for erosion control and habitat stewardship. [1]

Taxes on the ballot in 2011
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According to the state campaign finance database, there are no registered committees (PACs).

(last updated October 2011)

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2011


  • The San Antonio Express-News supports 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."[8]
  • The Houston Chronicle supports 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."[9]
  • 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."[10]
  • 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."[11]
  • 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."[12]
  • 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."[13]


  • The Conroe Courier of Montgomery County opposes 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."[14]
  • The Burka Blog, written by senior editor for the Texas Monthly Paul Burka, opposes 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!"[15]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing direct democracy in Texas

The measure was passed by the legislature on May 26, 2011, and was filed with the Texas Secretary of State on May 27, 2011.

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:

Event Date Developments
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

See also

By Jimmy Ardis
Texas state writer

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