| AUSTIN, Texas
AUSTIN, Texas May 28 Texas Governor Rick Perry
on Tuesday signed into law a bill creating a fund to finance
water infrastructure projects in a state suffering from two
years of widespread drought.
The measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by the
Legislature, sets up a system for Texas to provide loans for
projects such as reservoirs, wells and conservation efforts.
Lawmakers passed a separate proposal to draw $2 billion from the
state's rainy-day fund to help finance the loans.
Texas voters will be asked this fall to approve the creation
of the water fund.
"This is making history," Perry told reporters at a
ceremonial bill-signing event at the state Capitol. "We're
securing the future of our great state by making sure that Texas
has the water it needs for decades to come."
The fund will pay for up to $30 billion in water projects
over 50 years, Perry said. In that time, the fast-growing
state's population is projected to grow from 26 million to more
than 50 million people, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said.
For the past two years, at least half of Texas has been in
drought, said state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. In 2011,
the state experienced its driest year on record, according to
the National Weather Service. Cities such as San Angelo in West
Texas have imposed emergency restrictions on water use.
"We have all seen the devastating effects that severe
drought can have on our farms, on our communities and really on
our entire economy," said House Speaker Joe Straus, who said the
measure was a priority for the chamber.
The governor, who has traveled to states such as Illinois
and California to recruit businesses, said that business leaders
tell him they love Texas' tax structure.
"Then they ask: 'What are you going to do about water?'" he
said. This legislation, he said, "soundly answers that
Texas' biennial legislative session, which began in January,
ended on Monday, but the governor called lawmakers back for a
special session to address redistricting.
A number of lawmakers and advocacy groups are asking the
governor to expand the special-session agenda to include bills
that failed during the regular session, such as a Perry-backed
measure to ban late-term abortions.
Asked at the press conference about his future political
plans, Perry, who was a candidate for the 2012 Republican
nomination for president, said: "I will let you know in the