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Harris County Weighs Date For $1 Billion Flood Control Bond Referendum

County commissioners have been waiting for Congress to pass a Harvey relief bill, which could shoulder the lion’s share of costs for major projects like building a third reservoir. But they’ll need to act soon if they mean to get it on the ballot for the May 5 uniform election

Florian Martin
The Harris County Commissioners Court discussing its budget for fiscal year 2018.

Harris County Commissioners are still working to set a date for a proposed bond election. Voters would be asked to approve raising at least $1 billion for flood control projects. It could be on the ballot as early as May or as late as November.

Some of the funds raised would go to buy out homeowners in areas subject to repeated flooding. Others could go to help widen bayous or begin work on a third reservoir.

Jon Taylor chairs the political science department at the University of Saint Thomas. He said it's significant that political leaders usually quick to attack anything that looks like a tax increase haven't criticized the bond proposal.

"I'm thinking particularly of Senator Paul Bettencourt, who doesn't seem to be opposed to this so far," said Taylor. "You don't see opposition from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick as well, which suggests to me that there's at least some bipartisan effort here, understanding that this is a collective good issue as it were. It doesn't matter in terms of cost. You spend the money now, or you spend a lot more later."

The commissioners have been reluctant to set a date for the bond referendum before it's clear how much money Harris County will get from the federal government – or from Texas – for flood mitigation.

State law requires counties give 78 days' notice before calling a bond election. That means the commissioners will need to decide at their next meeting, on February 13, whether to hold the vote on May 5.


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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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