Nov 7, 2022 - News

How the Brimer Bill is reshaping Dallas

A rendering of a new Dallas convention center

This is what downtown Dallas could look like. Rendering courtesy of City of Dallas

Dallas voters are weighing in on a measure similar to the one that paid to build the American Airlines Center more than two decades ago.

Driving the news: Dallas City Council voted in April in support of increasing the occupancy tax by 2 percentage points — which is applied to stays at hotels, motels and short-term rentals — to pay for a new convention center and widespread renovations to Fair Park.

  • Now, Dallasites are deciding whether to approve or reject the measure, known as Proposition A.

Why it matters: The Brimer Bill, which first became state law in 1997, allows cities to use hotel taxes to repay bonds used to build sports arenas and convention centers without increasing taxes on city residents.

Yes, but: If the proposition passes and hotel tax revenues aren’t enough to pay off the bonds, the cost will fall on taxpayers.

What happened: In 1999, Dallas voters narrowly approved $140 million in bonds to be paid by hotel and rental car taxes to build the American Airlines Center, the home of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars.

  • At the time, opponents to the plan argued that the city would be paying for a project that would benefit local billionaires, but the project was supported by then-Mayor Ron Kirk, who is also lobbying for the passage of the current proposition.
  • City leaders took a victory lap in 2011 — after the Mavs won the NBA title — and announced the bonds could be paid off early.

The intrigue: The Brimer Bill was amended in the 2021 legislative session to include municipal parks projects. The Dallas-backed amendment was written so specifically that Fair Park is the only one that qualifies.

Details: If voters approve, most of the bond money will go toward tearing down and building a new convention center, costing at least $1 billion.

  • As much as $300 million will be put toward renovations at Fair Park, making it the largest single investment in the landmark's history.

Of note: The proposition is at the bottom of the ballot, so voters will have to scroll through several pages to weigh in.


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