Oversight, audits would be good for Texas events funds

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Texas

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Fort Worth and Arlington have multimillion-dollar stakes in Texas trust funds aimed at helping cities throughout Texas land events that will draw in visitors and their spending.

Nearly $60 million has been used or authorized for events in the two cities since 2006, according to data from the state comptroller's office compiled by Star-Telegram Austin Bureau chief Dave Montgomery. More than $12 billion of that amount is listed as payment pending or eligible for payment.

The trust funds, designed to reimburse costs of events out of the additional sales tax, motor vehicle rental tax, hotel tax and alcoholic beverage tax money they generate, are "terribly important for us to compete with other states," said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck. One of the funds provided $31.1 million for the 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington.

Fort Worth also gets millions of dollars a year, primarily for horse shows and other events at the Will Rogers Complex and races at Texas Motor Speedway.

Still, ideas being pushed by state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin and Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, both Democrats, have substantial merit. Watson wants additional oversight for the funds, which are currently under the control of Comptroller Susan Combs, a Republican.

Davis wants a state audit to make sure the money is being spent properly. The funds, primarily the Events Trust Fund and the Major Events Trust Fund, have paid out $206.5 million since their inception.

Perhaps Watson should rethink the part of his proposal that would give local event sponsors a role in overseeing disbursements. That's a bit too much like the fox guarding the henhouse.

A spokesman for Combs said the comptroller's office strictly follows state law in administering the funds. Still, it's hard for a layman to track where all of those millions flow.

More oversight and regular audits would be reassuring.

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