AUSTIN -- At Austin's historic Driskill Hotel, state and local Democrats cheered the president's reelection. For State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin), there was an additional item to cheer: Travis County voters Tuesday elected to pass Central Health Prop 1.
The proposal called for a 5-cent tax rate increase, roughly an additional $100 a year for the average Austin homeowner, in order to purchase health care services to support a new teaching hospital and medical school at the University of Texas.
The proposal was spearheaded by Watson, who was joined by university president Bill Powers in an interview with KVUE in June laying the groundwork for what would become a five month long campaign.
"We've been extremely busy," Watson told KVUE Tuesday. "I joked that we've been working 25 hours a day. Since we visited back in June and talked about this of course, Central Health decided to put it on the ballot. The board voted to put it on the public, and then we had a pretty intense time to educate the public."
Supporters and opponents have been outspoken in the run-up to the election. Those against the proposal raised a grassroots campaign to fight the tax rate increase, and the two sides have engaged in a pitched battle to win the public debate.
"It has been a robust debate, but things like this deserve robust debate," said Watson. "They deserve a debate on the facts, and many times I thought we got away from some of that, but it deserves a robust debate. The other thing people need to keep in mind and you need to keep in mind is that we built a really strong coalition here. That sometimes also got lost in the debate."
The coalition includes University regents, local chambers of commerce and local leaders, many of whom, along with Watson, spent Tuesday evening at the Driskill Hotel. With the ballots counted, the project will now begin its move forward.