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DATE News (chronologically)
12/24/10
f1
Texas trying to inflate nos. to justify lining Bernie's pockets  The state comptroller's office said Thursday that the agency may remove information posted on a new state Web page touting the benefits of bringing Formula One racing to Austin in 2012 that appears to assert that the event will generate nearly 5,000 jobs a number triple previously published estimates.

The new figures appear on texasahead.org , a site controlled by Comptroller Susan Combs' office that provides information about economic development opportunities in Texas. Combs has been a driving force behind bringing F1 racing to Texas.

The section of the website devoted to Formula One went live this week. On it, the comptroller's office projects the economic impact the race will have on the area. Such calculations are crucial because they form the basis for millions of dollars in government incentive payments to the event.

They are also controversial. Critics contend the projections often take into account only the benefits, and not the costs of putting on big events, and in so doing inflate the predicted economic impact, frequently to justify taxpayer subsidies.

Texas has committed to give local Formula One organizers $25 million a year for 10 years out of the Major Events Trust Fund , a pool of money filled by tax receipts attributable to specific large sporting events. In the first year, Formula One will be paid out of the state's general revenue fund.

Local governments, such as Austin or Travis County, could also apply for about $4 million from the fund to reimburse them for expenses incurred in hosting the race.

Those numbers can be found on the new Web page, which declares: "State's Investment Will Pay for Itself. From a Texas point of view, Formula 1 is an investment that will be repaid many times over."

One section of the site, "Estimated Direct Spending by Event Attendees," repeats earlier predictions that out-of-town fans will spend about $300 million on hotel rooms, food, alcohol, tickets, car rentals and other expenses. Based on state and local tax rates, spending at that level would generate about $29 million in tax revenue, said Robert Wood, the comptroller's economic development director.

But another section of the page, "Estimated Economic Impact of Annual F1 Grand Prix for Austin-Round Rock," features new numbers. Under "employment," it lists 3,770 direct jobs, and 1,075 jobs from indirect and "induced" effects of the three-day race weekend. Induced jobs are ones that would be created as the result of the indirect jobs attributable to the event.

The site also says the F1 race would generate about $150 million a year in "labor income."

The claims represent a dramatic increase from earlier projections. In documents submitted to the comptroller's office and the City of Austin in the summer, Formula One United States Grand Prix predicted that it would employ about 1,500 workers to build the $200 million facility east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The Statesman

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