A lawsuit filed today against the Texas State Comptroller in Travis County District Court seeks to block $25 million in state funding for the Formula One racetrack planned for Southeast Travis County. The lawsuit, filed by three Travis County residents, takes aim at whether F1 qualifies for state subsidies, according to a press release sent by Bill Aleshire, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.
The law requires that, to provide public funding, the selection of Austin as the site for the Formula One race must have been preceded by Austin’s participation in a “highly competitive selection process.” No local government in Austin participated in such a process.
The suit also claims state funding for F1 is illegal, because the date of the first F1 race is still not officially established.
"The state law that does not permit the expenditure of these funds or other actions under the trust fund formula if there is more than a year left before the race will be held," Aleshire told KUT.
Organizers had advertised the first race for June 17, 2012, but that date appears flexible.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve an F1 funding deal at tomorrow's City Council meeting. In light of the lawsuit, Aleshire says Council should postpone that vote.
"If the City of Austin acts, they are participating in a process to release $25 million in state funds that are needed in the public education system instead," Aleshire said.
Austin's Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the lawsuit against the Comptroller has no bearing on tomorrow's planned vote.
"I really don't understand what possible effect it could have on the city's action," he said in an interview with KUT.
Leffingwell said the F1 deal will bring in needed tax revenue for the city, especially since race organizers volunteered to chip in $4 million a year, an amount they had initially asked the city to contribute.
"I don't think it's legitimate to complain about the economic part of [the F1 deal] from the city's perspective, or the environmental issues, which I think are pretty thoroughly address," Mayor Leffingwell said.
The Mayor was also asked whether he was suspicious of the timing of the lawsuit, filed on the eve of City Council's F1 vote.
"I'm never suspicious about anything," Leffingwell replied.
Update at 4:24 pm: We just received this statement from the Texas Comptroller's office.
All applicable state rules and regulations were followed. Like other Major Event Trust Fund events, such as the Super Bowl, NBA All Stars and the Final Four, we feel the F1 event will be good for Austin and Texas. By bringing F1 to Austin we create jobs and spur economic development. The Comptroller’s office has followed the law as it is laid out in statute and administrative rules.