Arena-gate: Another lie?

This weekend the El Paso Inc. ran a story about the City’s newest volley in the fight over the arena. Here’s a nutritional morsel:

Despite pressure to reconsider the site for a Downtown arena, El Paso City Council members are committed to the controversial Union Plaza location – and now want build a more expensive arena with 15,000 seats.

That’s because building the arena within 1,000 feet of the El Paso Convention Center would allow the city to recover about $25 million in sales tax paid to the state, city Rep. Cortney Niland said Friday.

That could allow the city to increase the arena’s price tag from $180 million approved by voters in the 2012 bond election to $205 million, she said.

Available funding could even go higher because the city may be able to sell the naming rights for millions, she said.

Niland said an additional $25 million is an important reason for sticking with the Union Plaza site immediately south of the convention center.

“We would lose it if we picked the other site,” she said.

I hate to even ask, but . . .

Do you think she’s telling the truth?

The September 2015 issue of Tax Policy News from the Texas Comptroller “summarizes Texas tax law changes resulting from bills passed by the 84th Legislature.”

According to Tax Policy News:

HB 1964 amends the municipal hotel tax law to add the cities of El Paso, Frisco and Nacogdoches as eligible central municipalities.

An eligible central municipality is entitled, upon request, to receive a rebate of certain tax proceeds that are paid or collected by a qualified hotel project and businesses ancillary to the hotel project that are located within 1,000 feet of a convention center facility owned by the municipality. Included in the rebates are state and local sales and hotel occupancy taxes, ad valorem tax and local mixed beverage taxes. The cities can receive the tax rebates for 10 years after the hotel initially opens.

I don’t think the comptroller, or a judge, would consider the arena a “business ancillary to a hotel project.”

Or will the arena now include hotel rooms? Is the City contemplating diversifying into the hotel business?

If I were them, I’d work a little harder running the city before I went off on a new adventure.

Of course, maybe Rep. Niland was talking about some other chapter of the tax code of which I am ignorant. Maybe we could ask her when she brings by those emails.

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