Overlooking the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and South Dallas, city leaders gathered to convince residents to vote for an increase in the city hotel occupancy tax this November.
Proposition A would raise the hotel occupancy tax by 2% to fund a new convention center and significant improvements to the historic buildings at Fair Park.
For this measure to even make it to the ballot, the Texas Legislature had to amend the Brimer Law so that funds could be allocated to Fair Park, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Because of efforts by state lawmakers Rafael Anchía and Royce West, 20% of the money collected through the proposed tax would be dedicated to improvements at Fair Park. The remaining 80% will go towards the development of a new convention center.
City officials anticipate that Prop A will create at least 100,000 jobs and bring in $1.5 billion in taxpayer money over 30 years.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson opened the press conference by pointing out why Prop A exists.
“At both sites, we are not putting our best foot forward,” he said, gesturing to the current convention center and in the direction of Fair Park.
He stressed that the passage of Prop A will turn the center “from an albatross to an engine.” He said, “It’s up to the citizens of Dallas to take the next step.”
Former Texas Congresswoman Kay Bailey Hutchison, the center’s namesake, noted that Dallas’ hotel occupancy tax is currently lower than the cities it competes against, so increasing the rate by 2% would not make Dallas more expensive than other places.
Sitting Texas state Senator Royce West highlighted the same point and promised, “there will not be an increase of your taxes whatsoever.”
Brian Luallen from Fair Park First told The Dallas Express that if the city passes Prop A, the park will hit the ground running to prepare for the 2026 FIFA World Cup games that will be held in Dallas.
“We have gotten the best indication from FIFA that assuming this passes, we’ll host a significant portion of the activities associated with the World Cup in 2026,” he explained, “so that will be the first priority.”
The vision for Fair Park, Luallen continued, is to equip “getting them up to a level where they can take care of a 21st-century crowd while still respecting the past.”
Some citizens, however, have previously voiced concerns about hotel occupancy taxes, suggesting that they potentially reduce traveler spending at nearby businesses and drive people to stay in cities with lower rates.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) noted that municipalities such as Irving have wasted millions of hotel occupancy taxes on frivolous expenditures without sufficient oversight.
“An unintended consequence of the HOT is its deterrent effect on visitor spending at local businesses,” wrote TFR. “Studies have shown that: (A) as many as 95% of respondents identify price as a key consideration when booking accommodations, and (B) half of travelers altered their plans on account of high travel taxes, all of which indicate cutbacks on trips and other leisure activities.”
Voters will choose whether to adopt this funding mechanism on November 8.
Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchinson is a former United State Senator of Texas.
Prop A sounds like a winner . . . for suburban hotels and convention centers.