No, this isn’t about Texas High School Football. This is about the Texas Events Trust Funds that has handed out hundreds of millions of taxpayer money to cover the expenses of bringing major sporting events (and conferences) to Texas. The NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, and more have all been recipients. Just yesterday, the Texas House approved a bill that would advance the Cowboys Stadium’s bid to host the first NCAA football playoff title game after the 2014 season. This would allow one of the Texas Events Funds to pay for the expenses of the event.
What are the Texas Events Trust Funds?
Currently, there are four Events Trust Funds:
|Major Events Trust Fund (METF)||Events Trust Fund (ETF)||Motor Sports Racing Trust Fund||Special Events Trust Fund|
|Major national or international championship type events, such as NFL Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four Tournaments and Formula One automobile races. Local Match is required.||Once a year sporting event or convention like Major League Soccer All Star Game or American Public Transportation Association convention. Local Match is required.||Limited to automobile racing events sanctioned by the Automobile Competition Committee for the U.S. and held at a temporary venue. Local Match is required.||50% payout on state sales tax gain only. NO local match is required.|
Since 2003, these funds have, according to the State of Texas, “helped its communities offset the costs of hosting sporting and non-athletic events.” To qualify for these funds, an event must be competitively bid, and the community must be competing with cities outside Texas for the right to host it. Some of the most notable tax payer subsidized events include:
- Super Bowls XXXVIII (Houston) and XLV (Arlington)
- NCAA Final Four – 2004, 2008, 2011 (San Antonio)
- MLB All-Star Game – 2004 (Houston)
- NBA All-Star Game – 2006 (Houston), 2010 (Dallas) and 2013 (Houston)
- NASCAR Texas 500 – 2011, 2012, and 2013 (Fort Worth)
- Formula 1 United State Grand Prix – 2012 (Austin)
According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, the state and local governments invest in these events due to the “tax revenue increases” brought in by “out-of-state visitors.” So far, the four funds have spent over $277 million, which $240 million is state money and $36 million is local government money. Why the big disparity in contribution? As you can see in the above table, only three of the four funds require a local match. The “match” system is set up that, for every $6.25 the state puts in the hat, the local government must put in $1. So, if you live in Odessa and don’t care for sports (or conferences) or unable to travel across the state, you are still going to be footing the bill for an event in Dallas or Houston. It is a “tourism subsidy” system that heavily favors the large metros, while small cities and towns are left in the dust. Here is a breakdown by city of where the money is dispersed:
You can view the entire list here: http://www.texasahead.org/tax_programs/event_fund/approvals/CPATrustFundApprovals04102013.xls
This system of funding just appears to be another form of corporate welfare in Texas. Just like we asked in our previous article on cronyism, why are we giving to multi-billion dollar organizations to come to Texas when they are financially healthy? Was $4.8 million really the difference between the MLB coming or not coming to Houston for the All-Star Game? After all, that is only 0.06% of the MLB’s 2012 revenues.
The table above shows 57% of the entire fund going to those nine organizations. It even seems more counter-intuitive when you realize that we have paid hundreds of millions to these groups just to have their event at TAX PAYER-FUNDED venues. Cowboys Stadium, the Arlington Convention Center, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, the Cotton Bowl, and the Alamodome are just a few of the numerous government-owned venues used by these groups, and yet we pay these same groups tax payer money so they don’t have to pay to use them!
With the Texas Legislature considering taking $6 billion out of our Rainy Day Fund for water and roads, it seems that much of that expense is unnecessary had the State saved the $1 billion its given away through the Texas Enterprise Fund, Emerging Technology Fund, and the Events Trust Funds. The State government’s priorities really need to be reorganized. Education, roads, water, health care are where tax payer money should be going. Texas’ welfare policy for massive corporations and organizations needs to stop. Put back our money in services that we actually use.