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Free ‘gift certificate’ for all San Antonians


The proposed Visitor Tax extension will appear on the May 10 ballot. At this point, you are probably thinking you’d rather visit an overpriced dentist in Stone Oak than read about another bond election. But give me six minutes of your time dear reader. It will be worth it.

You have been the recipient of a FREE gift certificate for the past decade. To make a long story short, nine years ago we voted and approved a venue tax that paid for the AT&T Center. Yes, you own that place where Ginobili and the Parisian Parker rock the house.

The bond expires in one year and our leaders want to extend the tax revenue instead of letting it lapse like a gift certificate you receive during the holidays from the aunt who “hates to shop.” The proponents of the extension explain it in like this:

“This is a tax that already exists – it is not a new tax or a sales tax or a property tax. The Visitor Tax is paid through a 1.75% hotel occupancy tax and a 5% short-term motor vehicle tax, so if you don’t stay in a hotel or rent a car in Bexar County, you won’t pay a single cent of it.”

Who is paying for this new and improved gift certificate? Visitors!! Isn’t life fun when you have clever county and city leaders? What’s in it for you? The following three paragraphs by supporters of the extension offer the best summary of the benefits:

“The San Antonio River Expansion &
Improvements Project is an effort to cultivate and expand the San Antonio River by restoring the river’s ecosystem, addressing flood control, and providing recreational amenities. We will tie the city together with 13 miles of hike and bike trails and paths stretching from the river’s headwaters near Hildebrand all the way south to Mission Espada.”

“By building thirteen quality youth and amateur athletic facilities, capable of hosting regional and national tournaments, we will provide Bexar County youth opportunities to participate and excel in athletics and we will boost the local economy with the millions of dollars tourists bring to large amateur athletic competitions.”

“Enhancements to the Freeman Coliseum, stock show facilities and AT&T Center will enable Bexar County to protect its investment in these county-owned facilities and will help support the rodeo, which, since moving into the AT&T Center, has doubled the amount of scholarships and educational opportunities it gives to children to more than $7.6 million.”

This is the bottom line: You are getting a gift certificate that somebody else will pay for. The credits on your account will benefit children, sporting activities, and the performing arts in San Antonio. (No need to worry. The money won’t be diverted to toll roads or some other general fund.)

Is this too good to be true?

The skeptical and cynical part of my brain has come to accept the harsh reality that San Antonio politicians are addicted to building new parks, community projects, and other centers. They just love to build, like the Spanish conquistadores who ruled this hemisphere centuries ago.

We, the voters, comply because they give us sweet goodies that melt in our hungry mouths: the AT& T Center, Voelcker Park, and the Main Plaza renovation. On a certain level, we are also addicted to this free stuff. It has become part of our DNA over the years.

The Current’s February 22 Queque column was amused by the gyrations and acrobatic abilities of clever county leaders who have been able to find a way to use proceeds from the venue tax for soccer fields and swimming pools. This should come as no surprise since they want to keep the tax-revenue juice running through their veins.

What about the fact that half of all car rentals are to San Antonians? (Ugh!! We came so close to getting the whole enchilada plate for free.) Let’s name one of the soccer fields after these San Antonio taxpayers. I know — life is not fair.

Yes, our leaders found somebody to pay the tab so we can keep the party going: Visitors (mostly). We can feed our mutual addiction for community projects with NO increase in property or sales taxes. I’ve looked at this program carefully and have one simple conclusion.

I want a New and Improved Gift Certificate for the future of the city. There are worse addictions that could be funded by my checkbook. We got a pass this time if you ask me. •

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