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Flood Control Bond Could Prove Tough Sell For Harris County Voters, Survey Says

The poll, by University of Houston and Rice University researchers, demonstrates broad support for flood control measures in the wake of Harvey, but minimal backing for tax increases to pay for them

Hurricane Harvey dropped record rainfall on Houston neighborhoods like this one, near Addicks Reservoir.
David J. Phillip/AP

Judge Ed Emmett may have a tough time selling a proposed billion-dollar flood control bond to Harris County voters. A new survey reveals borderline support for even the smallest of tax increases to pay for flood control policies now under discussion.

Researchers from the University of Houston's Hobby School and Rice University polled residents in Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Montgomery Counties – all areas hit hard by Harvey. Asked what they thought of a variety of flood control measures, such as building a new reservoir, respondents supported virtually all of them by a wide margin.

"A real test of this is, "What would you be willing to pay?'" says Rice University political scientist Bob Stein. He notes support is highest among residents of Harris County. "About 52 percent would support raising property taxes at any level. We, of course, tested that for particular amounts of money, and the numbers gets smaller as the tax increase increases."

Support for flood-control policies, and related taxes, depends heavily on whether and when voters experienced flooding. If the bond vote takes place in May, a fresh round of flooding could boost support. A relatively dry spring could depress it. Either way, Stein says Judge Emmett will have to do more to argue his case if he wants to ensure passage.


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