From a new $8 million scoreboard to help attract the NBA All-Star Game to Houston to the alleged mismanagement of tax payer funded research dollars by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, it is becoming increasingly clear that more stringent oversight is required to ensure that the tax dollars of every day Texans are being used as efficiently and effectively as possible. Senator Kirk Watson, the former Mayor of Austin, is just one lawmaker leading the charge to have better oversight of where tax dollars are going–and if they can be put to better use.
Senator Watson uses the “scoreboard example” to show just how skewed the state’s priorities can be. In addition to Travis County’s ongoing investigation into the CPRIT Matter, Senator Watson has also filed Senate Bill 765 to look into Major Events Trust Fund, which is the organization that works to attract big name events to the state of Texas. While the state of Texas has spent $7.25 million on what he said he was “working like crazy” to get in order to fund a rebuild of Bastrop County after devastating wildfires, the Texas Senator has found gross misappropriation of funds on Formula One and an unnecessary scoreboard that dwarf this funding for rebuilding in the wake of the wildfire disasters.
According to a recent article in Statesman:
In Austin, state and city spending on Formula One became controversial in 2011 during hearings by the Austin City Council, with some questioning the propriety of steering public dollars to Formula One at a time when the state cut financing for public schools by about $5 billion. Ultimately, the city council endorsed the measure, but not before pledging that the city would not finance incentives as part of the deal for Formula One. A successful race was staged in Austin in November, which triggered Comptroller Susan Combs to approve payment of $29.3 million from the state trust fund to organizers of Formula One.
Watson’s bill would require Combs to share authority over the Major Events Trust Fund with the state auditor and a representative of the host city or county. But the bill also would cap at 5 percent the cost of infrastructure improvements that taxpayers would pay for, if the owner of the venue gets a long-term benefit from the improvements — such as a multi-million scoreboard.
While Senator Watson is concentrating on the Major Events Trust, the Statesman reports that Senator Bob Deuell is looking to enforce tighter restrictions on the workings of the Texas Enterprise Fund, which works to bring jobs and businesses to Texas. In both cases, tighter controls on how tax dollars are spent–and on what–can only benefit Texans and their state moving forward.