AUSTIN (KXAN) — While there is no shortage of high-interest items before Austin voters on this November ballot, the campaigns for and against the rapid transit measure in Proposition A have been spending significantly to make sure voters don’t miss their message in all the noise.
The campaign finance reports required eight days before the election show that groups that support Proposition A have raised—and spent—more than double their opposition.
Prop A, if passed, would approve a citywide transit system. This system, known as Project Connect, is a plan from Capital Metro to bring in 27 miles of rail service, which would connect north and south Austin, the airport and Colony Park as well as adding an underground tunnel for rail through downtown. Project Connect would also expand bus service with an all-electric bus fleet.
Supporters of Proposition A argue it is necessary to ease traffic and mitigate the effects of climate change as Austin grows. Opponents argue rail is expensive and object to the increase in the portion of city taxes residents would pay if this project were approved.
The Political Action Committees
The largest political action committee in support of Prop A is the Mobility For All PAC. Mobility For All is not to be confused with Safe Mobility For All PAC, which is the PAC fundraising the campaign for Proposition B, a different measure on the November ballot which would pay for other types of transit improvements.
The Austin Coalition for Transit PAC was created in October and also supports Proposition A.
The Our Mobility Our Future PAC is the main PAC opposing Proposition A.
KXAN calculated the following totals according to the recently posted campaign finance numbers through the city.
- Total contributions to Pro-Proposition A PACs: $1,315,854.12
- Total contributions to Our Mobility Our Future: $539,165.00
- Total expenditures by Pro-Proposition A PACs: $1,106,558.11
- Total expenditures by Our Mobility Our Future: $501,181.69
These should be the last campaign finance updates submitted prior to the election. These PACs may receive more donations after this point, but those reports will not be filed until later on.
Austin Coalition for Transit PAC treasurer Scott Morris confirmed to KXAN they have raised a total of $12,060 in contributions and have made $9,592.77 in political expenditures.
The Mobility for All PAC has done the most fundraising and spending by far, with a total of $1,303,794.12 in contributions and $1,096,965.34 in political expenditures.
The top donors to Mobility for All include:
- HNTB Corporation: $155,000
- HNTB is an employee-owned infrastructure firm. While it has a headquarters listed in Kansas City, Mo, it also has Austin offices.
- Endeavor Real Estate Group: $100,000
- Austin-based Endeavor has developed projects including the Domain, IBC Bank Plaza and The Bowie.
- AECOM: $100,000
- AECOM describes itself as “the world’s premier infrastructure consulting firm” and lists its global headquarters in Los Angeles
- Brandywine Operating Partnership: $100,000
- Brandywine Operating Partnership is a Pennsylvania-based real estate and investment services company with dozens of properties in Austin.
- Austin FC: $100,000
- Austin’s newly launched Major League Soccer Club Austin FC. Project Connect’s initial investment would bring a rail station to the Austin FC stadium.
Top donors for Our Mobility Our Future include
- Vicki Roberts: $100,000
- Roberts, who owns Lexus of Austin, donated a total of $100,000.
- Michael Levy: $33,100
- Levy is the founder and now-retired publisher of Texas Monthly
- Mark Green: $30,000
- Green is listed as retired. His address is listed as the same address as John Markham Green, who is listed by Bloomberg as the Interim Chief Executive of PowerOne Media, Inc. and was one of the top donors to the Unconventional Austin PAC that supported 2019’s Proposition B in Austin, which was defeated.
- Mercedes-Benz of Austin: $25,000
- A car dealership on Airport Boulevard
- John McCall: $24,000
- McCall was described by the Austin Chronicle back in 2001 as a “multimillionaire shampoo magnate.” He lives in Spicewood, Texas.
A note from the past
The dollar amounts shown in Austin campaign coffers don’t necessarily determine outcomes. In 2016, that year’s Proposition 1 was defeated, solidifying local rules for rideshare companies, despite the fact that Uber and Lyft spent more than $8.6 million to support the proposition. The PAC opposing the proposition raised a little more than $100,000.
The Austin American-Statesman published a report exactly six years ago for the 2014 Proposition 1 Bond election for light rail and transit improvements.
At that time, the Statesman reported the pro-Prop 1 PAC Let’s Go Austin raised more than $1.1 million. HNTB also contributed to the Let’s Go Austin PAC at that time.
The opposing PAC, Citizens Against Rail Taxes had raised $393,000. Mike Levy contributed to a second opposing, PAC DeRail Austin, the Statesman reported then.
Prop 1 in 2014 did not pass.
Project Connect would commit to an initial investment of $7.1 billion dollars in the rapid transit project, 45% of which local leaders estimate, will be paid for by the federal government.
Proposition A is not a bond election but rather a a tax-rate election. If passed, Proposition A would approve an ad valorem tax rate of “of $0.5335 per $100 valuation in the City of Austin for the current year, a rate that is $0.0875 higher per $100 valuation than the voter-approval tax rate of the City of Austin.”
Taxpayers in Travis County pay taxes to multiple jurisdictions, including AISD, the City of Austin, Travis County, Travis County HealthCare District and Austin Community College. Some City of Austin residents may also pay taxes to other entities.
If passed, the tax rate from Proposition A would be added to the City of Austin portion of residents’ tax bills.
Community Impact has analyzed the tax bill impact for residents in each of these taxing jurisdictions which you can view here.