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The Lead: Economic Incentives & Texas, Council OKs WTP4 Funds

Good morning. The National Weather Service says we can expect a mix of foggy mornings and warmer afternoons, until a cold front blows in Sunday. Here's some of KUT News' top overnight stories. 

“The Austin City Council has approved tax incentives for Visa, which wants to expand operations in Austin with about 800 new jobs. KUT’s Jennifer Stayton spoke with Louise Story of the New York Times about her recent article on such subsidies that showed Texas gives out more than any other state. One way it does this is through reimbursements of school districts’ tax abatements.”

“The difficulty is that the city has already paid $359 million for the project.  That was the original cost the city approved for construction of WTP4. Council members said they thought the $359 million figure was set in stone, but obviously it wasn’t. Sheryl Cole, the city’s mayor pro-tem, looked for ways to come up with the money. ‘We received a memo and there was some thoughts at some point about selling property to deal with cost overruns associated with Water Treatment Plant 4,’ Cole said. ‘Can I get any information about that?’”

“Employees at the University of Texas at Austin may see their paychecks cut by two percent next month. Social Security withholding taxes are scheduled to go up as part of the menu of tax changes Washington is calling ‘the fiscal cliff.’ Lawmakers would have to reach a deal to extend the payroll tax holiday by Dec. 20 to give UT’s payroll department enough time to process it before the Jan. 2 payday.”

“Women have not always had it easy in the Lone Star State. For example, women couldn’t serve on juries until 1954. But a new exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin showcases the ways women changed their lives, laws, and the state in the 20th century.”

And here’s more stories from Austin and around Texas:

  • Austin Area Hotels Saw Boost During F1 Race Week (Statesman)
“During the five-day period ending with the race on Sunday, Nov. 18, Austin area hotels took in $32 million — triple what they made during the same stretch the previous year. And that five-day period in 2011 included a University of Texas home football game against Kansas State. The statistics were compiled by STR, or Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotel industry data and provides market share analyses for major chains and brands in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.”

  • New Austin Bar Causes Parking Woes (KXAN)
“There are concerns about a dangerous spot for pedestrians in South Austin where a new bar called The Moontower Saloon, just opened up on Manchaca Road. … Josh Bumb and his business partner decided to open up this bar on the south side of town. But, they weren't expecting such an explosive response when they opened their doors in mid-November. … But with the successful response came some unexpected growing pains – parking. “

  • Mysterious Bright Flash in Sky Reported Across Texas (WFAA Dallas)
"According to Dr. James Roberts, a University of North Texas astronomer who talked to WBAP, the mysterious object in the sky was likely a burned up meteor. A KHOU meteorologist in Houston said it may have been part of the Geminids meteor shower, which takes place in December. The meteorites often appear to be slow moving, although the Geminids usually are best seen at its peak on December 13 and 14."

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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