White: We ought to take a machete to Texas tourism dollars


AUSTIN — Gubernatorial candidate Bill White has found at least one multimillion dollar program Texas can do without: commercials and advertisements promoting Texas.

The Democrat recently said he would ax money for such advertising as one way to save the state money.

“There are certain things we ought to take a machete to,” he said when asked which programs could be eliminated. “The advertising budget right out of the governor’s office has gone up from about $6,000 in 2001 to $22 million-plus today.

“We can’t afford that.”

White, the former mayor of Houston, is running against Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who appeared flummoxed when told about his opponent’s comments.

“He actually said those words?” Perry asked. “There is no governor’s advertising budget.”

That is true, but when pressed by The Associated Press to provide more details, White’s campaign produced a document showing the tourism office, which is under the governor’s office, spent more than $22 million last fiscal year for advertising services for Texas tourism and marketing.

The money came from a fund established by a 1994 law requiring one-half of 1 percent of the state’s hotel and motel tax revenue to go to “media advertising and other marketing activities” to promote Texas tourism. The tourism fund is expected to bring in about $60 million over the next two years.

The money, intended to lure tourists to the Lone Star State, is used for television commercials and print advertisements touting the state’s many attractions. Lately, the advertisements use the motto “Texas, it’s like a whole other country.”

Perry has already proposed cutting millions from the program to help close the state’s $18 billion budget hole.

The tourism office budget would be reduced by $6 million over the next two years as part of the governor’s savings drive. He has asked state agencies to submit proposals for cutting their budgets by 10 percent.

Still, Perry’s campaign defended the tourism spending.

“I think there are many people in the travel industry in this state that would be very offended by Bill White’s call to get rid of that fund,” Perry’s campaign spokesman Mark Miner said. “It shows a complete lack of understanding (of efforts) to create jobs, to bring people to this state to spend dollars in Texas. It makes no sense.”