Political action committee forming to advocate for passage of City's bond election

Group to court voters in support of bond issue, hotel tax hike

EL PASO, Texas - A political action committee is in the process of forming that will advocate for the passage of the City of El Paso's proposed bond of nearly $500 million to pay for parks, museum improvements, zoo additions and Downtown attractions.

The El Paso Advisory Committee, made up of members from the Downtown Management District, the Paso Del Norte Group and some elected officials will morph into a PAC in the coming weeks.

They'll also actively campaign to convince voters to increase the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT tax) on people who stay in El Paso Hotels from 15.5 percent to 17.5 percent in order to partially fund the proposed Downtown baseball stadium.

Chair Tripper Goodman said the group is currently identifying and recruiting about 20 people to help them campaign in the coming months.

He said Mayor John Cook and a representative from El Paso's neighborhood association are already on board. Elected officials can campaign for an issue, but City employees cannot.

"We're turning the corner and I hope that most El Pasoans will see that," Goodman said in an interview on Tuesday.

He said that El Paso, for the first time in recent history, has an aggressive City Council coupled with a willing private sector.

"We have a strong private sector that is willing to write checks, willing to invest, willing to go out and do things. This is a tremendous opportunity for us," Goodman said.

The PAC expects to meet some opposition, especially since the passage of the bond may increase taxes.

"People who say 'oh my taxes are going to go up' -- well, we're doing everything we can on the bond initiative to make sure that that really is not going to be a huge issue," Goodman said.

He added that the projects aren't solely for quality of life, but for the economic development that comes with it.

"It'll hopefully bring corporations in to do things or divisions, it'll just transform this whole community."

If there are no alternate funding sources for the several projects the City is planning to invest on, including the bond, property taxes could increase between $50 and $80 per year.

City officials have said creative funding sources, including the HOT tax increase, will prevent such a drastic increase.

The Hotel Motel Association, who is against raising the HOT tax to 17.5 percent, which would be the highest in the state, won't campaign to convince voters it's a bad idea. Instead a representative said they'd try to negotiate with City leaders to bring down that number.

"The El Paso Hotel/Motel Association is asking to work with our City Leaders on a more reasonable means for funding the ballpark project. The Hotel community would prefer to be partners over opposing the ballot proposition... We stand ready to help find a solution that will provide the City a AAA ballpark and do so in a way that does not burden the El Paso hotel sector," association president Danny Padilla wrote in a statement to ABC-7.

Currently, a hotel room in El Paso that costs $100 comes with a $15.50 HOT tax. If voters approve the increase, the same $100 room would come with a $17.50 tax.

"I think our room rates are lower than average across the state and if you look at a $100/room, you're looking at a $2 increase, I don't think it's going to make that big a difference," Goodman said.

"We have to invest in this community, if we don't invest, then we're going to find that this is just going to continue to plateau out," he added.

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