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Report: Tax Dollars Pay for Big Screens

More controversy has erupted over a state tax incentive program after a Houston television station reported that it was used to buy "big screens for billionaires."

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A state tax incentive program is again the subject of controversy after a Houston television station reported that it was used to buy "big screens for billionaires." 

According to a KTRK-TV (Channel 13) report, the Major Events Trust Fund was used in 2010 to buy an $8 million scoreboard for American Airlines Center as part of the effort to lure the NBA All-Star Game to Dallas in 2010. 

Another $8 million bought a similar screen for the Toyota Center in Houston to help the arena prepare for the All-Star Game this weekend.

The METF is one of four trust funds intended to encourage the hosting of events in Texas. The funds provide money up front to host events before the state recovers the money from hotel, alcoholic beverage, car rental, sales and general use taxes in the period during and after the event.

Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Dan Patrick, R-Houston, aren't happy about the purchases, KTRK reports.

"I love sports," Patrick told the station. "But sports owners and the leagues are some of the greediest people you will find, and they will take and take and take and take." 

The Major Events Trust Fund was used to lure Formula One racing to Austin over the objections of liberal and conservative activists who called the expenditures corporate welfare.

Critics have also questioned the millions of dollars in expenditures made from the Events Trust Fund. Like the Major Events Trust Fund, the ETF is set up to lure events that might not otherwise be held here. But the state has used the ETF to help defray costs of staging the Cotton Bowl and the Alamo Bowl, both events long held in Texas.

The first Cotton Bowl opened in Dallas in 1937, and the Alamo Bowl was first held in San Antonio in 1993; neither has been held anywhere else. The law requires that events must be subject to a "highly competitive" site selection process to qualify for state incentive money.

State officials say they rely on the local event promoters and organizing committees to vouch for whether the selection process had been competitive. 

Below is the KTRK report:






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