Amendment 4- Storm water Control
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Amendment 4- Storm water Control

Date: October 10, 2008
By: Sarah D. Wire and Valerie Insinna
State Capitol Bureau
Links: The full text of the proposal

JEFFERSON CITY - A proposed constitutional amendment regarding storm water projects may not seem to be important but a Boone County Public Works spokeswoman said it could help fix valuable infrastructure.

The amendment would expand projects that could be covered by bonds the state sells to raise funds for storm-water projects across the state.

Voter in 1998 approved giving the legislature power to sell bonds for storm water projects.

The $250 million bonds was intended to be used by the state Natural Resources Department to help with local storm water projects, but a change in federal tax laws has kept the sale from moving forward, which leaves $150 million in limbo. The last bond sale was in 2002.

Supporters say Amendment 4 will make it easier for water and sewer districts to obtain tax-free grants and loans from the state. No organized public opposition has emerged.

Boone County Public Works spokeswoman Georganna Bowman said if the amendment passes, the County could apply for a grant to fix the failing infrastructure in subdivisions owned by the county. She said some of the subdivisions are thirty years old and did not have adequate storm water control when they were built.

"I would love to be able to apply those loans to the infrastructure cost," Bowman said. She said the county does not have a designated storm water fund.

One of the changes the amendment would clarify is that only public water and sewer districts could receive loans or grants for the storm water control projects. The constitution already prohibits the state from granting or lending public money to private individuals or corporations, so this may be superfluous change.

The proposal also eliminates the restriction that state grants can pay for no more that 50 percent of a project's total cost. The existing requirement is that local governments or water and sewer districts must pay for the other half.  If the amendment passes, the state could theoretically pay for the entire cost of local projects.

According to Missouri's official fair ballot language, the amendment will have no impact on taxes.

It would also eliminate the existing cap of $20 million per fiscal year on appropriations to the storm water control fund. The restriction that appropriated money must be divided evenly between loans and grants would be eliminated.

Because loans must be repaid and grants do not, Bowman said the County would prefer to pursue grants.

"You always love grants over loans," she said.

Appropriated money in the storm water control fund that is not used within two years would not revert back to state funds, as is the current case. Instead the money would stay in the fund and accrue interest.

Natural Resources Department spokeswoman Joy Reven said if the amendment passes bonds may be sold by the state, but it doesn't guarantee the sales will be made. She said if the state sells the bonds it will create new jobs at the department.

Reven said she doesn't think there will be any disadvantages to the state if the amendment passes.

"If it doesn't pass, the $150 million will still be out there," she said.

Bruce Wylie, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineers, said the society supports the amendment because it would give more flexibility to the entities that make decisions concerning storm water bonds and allow more flexibility to the balance of grants and loans.

"If gives them more control of financing storm water projects," Wylie said. 


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