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Tax dollars point of contention in Prop 1 discussion

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"It's like dying a death from 1,000 small cuts," is the way Don Zimmerman explained to council Thursday why he is against a plan to create a medical school in Austin.

Zimmerman, a member of the Travis County Taxpayers Union, and about a dozen other supporters shared their concerns about Proposition 1, which would ask for about $52 million more a year from Travis County property owners.

"We have the highest taxes in Travis County of any metropolitan county in Texas,” Zimmerman said. “We got here a little bit at a time - -a dollar at a time, a nickel at a time."

Advocates like State Sen. Kirk Watson and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell have been leading the charge in favor of the plan for months. They say federal money will pay $1.46 for every local dollar spent.

The advocates say that money would create 15,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in annual economic impact.

"There has been no analysis if this is fictitious,” Zimmerman said. “Are these crazy numbers like we got for the Intel project that wound up in a downtown empty shell?"

Mark Nathan with the Keep Austin Healthy PAC says the tax money would free up funds within the University of Texas and Seton budgets to build the medical school.

"Money goes to fund health care services for the poor and uninsured in the community,” he said. “Those are services that would be purchased from a new University of Texas medical school."

However, critics argue more than a half billion dollars would be stored up before the services are even offered a decade from now.

"No medical school in our history has demanded a property tax before it would be created,” Zimmerman said. “That's something new and voters need to know that."

Still, Nathan contends Prop 1 isn’t all about tax dollars.

"I hope people will make a judgment about the value of the proposition there, and not just simply reject wholesale the idea of any tax increase," he said.

Texas A&M University has a College of Medicine Health Science Center in Round Rock.
Zimmerman says Williamson County taxpayers were not asked to fund that project.

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