Bill would let Austin use more visitor tax money for art, music

The thousands of visitors crowding Austin for South by Southwest will spend over $300 million dollars during their stay. Now state and city leaders want to see that tax money pack more of a punch.

Whether SXSW draws you out with the crowds or you stay home tucked far away ... the money being spent this week is here to stay.

"My time in Austin so far is really good," says JC Monglia, visiting from London. Tourists coming to town will contribute an estimated $41 million to the city's general fund by simply spending their money.

"Mostly on clubs, booze at clubs, food and restaurants," says Michael Campos, visiting from Seattle.

On top of that sales tax revenue, millions more is collected in hotel occupancy tax.

"Austin is definitely a national and international destination and in large part because of our arts," says Rep. Gina Hinojosa who represents Texas'District 49.

Hinojosa filed H.B. 4173 on March 10. It would allow cities -- like Austin -- to have the option of spending up to 19.3 percent of collected hotel taxes on art and music.

"In many ways the session is about taking away local control from municipalities -- from local communities -- and so in many ways our fight here is about pushing back against that," Hinojosa says.

In 1985 the city established the Art In Public Places Program. You'll find work from local and nationally known artists tucked away on side streets and in parks.

"We know in Austin that those are essential parts of not just our economy but of our culture and who we are," says Hinojosa.

Austin's Visitor Impact Task Force could soon recommend upping the hotel occupancy tax rate allowing the city to use the added income to fund a convention center expansion. The convention center has said in the past that an expansion and upgrade is needed to accommodate more events which in turn appeals to more visitors coming to town and spending their money.

"The local scene is nice. Everyone is really cool. It's a little cheaper than Seattle sometimes and there's sunshine, so that's always nice," says Campos.

According to SXSW, in 2016 the festival had a total economic impact of $352 million.