In less than a month, Central Texans will head to the polls to vote on a slew of important statewide and local decisions, including 10 constitutional amendments, half a billion dollars in new debt, a new hotel tax, new rules for city government, and more.
Here’s a brief rundown of the local propositions you might see on your ballot.
There’s only one local proposition on the Williamson County ballot—whether to approve $447 million in new tax-funded debt for public works projects. The half-billion dollar bond is separated into two ballot items: $412 million for road improvements and $35 million for parks.
As previously reported by Texas Scorecard, a political action committee has spent big bucks trying to sway voters to approve the bond. Despite virtually no public opposition on the topic, the PAC has amassed $150,000 and is funded nearly entirely by engineering and construction corporations; many are out-of-state corporations, and many already have financial deals with the county government.
We’re not taking a position on the bond, but citizens can read more about the bond projects by clicking here.
Travis County citizens will see Proposition A, which would allow the county to charge a 2-cent tax on any hotel room rentals within the county. If approved, the county would use the Hotel Occupancy Tax money to fund their redevelopment plan for the county exposition center. However, the county would not collect the tax within the city limits of Austin, because the city already charges the maximum HOT allowed under state law.
We recommend taxpayers vote AGAINST the proposition and the higher taxes it would create.
City of Austin
In Texas’ capital city, voters will have only two propositions, both relating to rules for their city government.
Proposition A essentially makes it more difficult for the city to lease or sell public land for sports or entertainment purposes.
If approved, any time the city council wanted to lease land to a soccer stadium or theater group, for example, the council would have to pass it by a supermajority vote as well as put the decision to a public vote. The council would also have to follow the same process for renewing existing public land agreements, such as with the Long Center or Zach Theater.
Proposition A initially was a challenge in response to the Austin City Council leasing public land for a Major League Soccer stadium. Two political action committees led a petition effort to fight the council’s stadium decision and have it put to a public vote; though they were successful in getting the proposition on the ballot, neither PAC exists anymore nor are they any longer supporting the effort.
Those opposing Proposition A say the whole effort was simply because the already existing soccer team Austin Bold and Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein did not want another professional team coming to town. Epstein’s money mostly fueled both PACs.
Check out the mouthful that is the official Proposition A ballot language:
Shall a city ordinance be adopted that requires that a sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or other alienation of City-owned land for any existing or future youth, recreational, or professional sports facility or any existing or future entertainment facility be approved by a supermajority vote of council (9 of 11 members) and also be approved by the voters at an election for which the City must pay; requires that any site development permits and variances related thereto be approved by a supermajority vote of council (9 of 11 members); requires that site development permits and variances related thereto be approved by the voters at an election for which the City must pay, if the sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or other alienation of City-owned land for the facility has not already obtained voter approval; requires that the facility post payment and performance bonds and pay ad valorem taxes, or payments equal to the amount of ad valorem taxes; and requires that all information concerning such sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or other alienation shall be disclosed to the public.
Proposition B deals with the Austin Convention Center and changes how the city spends its Hotel Occupancy Tax.
If approved, Proposition B would require the city council to put any planned expansion of the convention center to a public vote and would prohibit the council from spending more than 34 percent of their HOT tax money on convention center projects. They would instead have to redirect HOT spending to “cultural arts” and “historic preservation.”
Here’s the official Proposition B language you’ll see on the ballot:
Shall an ordinance be adopted that prioritizes the use of Austin’s Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue by continuing the City practice to spend 15% of the Austin Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue on cultural arts and 15% on historic preservation, limiting the City’ s spending to construct, operate, maintain, or promote the Austin Convention Center to 34% of Austin’s Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, and requiring all remaining Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to support and enhance Austin’s Cultural Tourism Industry to the potential exclusion of other allowable uses under the Tax code; and requires the City to obtain voter approval and public oversight for convention-center improvement and expansion costing more than $20,000,000.
Early voting begins Monday, October 21 and runs through Friday, November 1. Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.