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News » BR hotel tax to aid Saints suggested *** Other South La. areas included in proposal

BR hotel tax to aid Saints suggested *** Other South La. areas included in proposal

BR hotel tax to aid Saints suggested *** Other South La. areas included in proposal
Guests at hotels and motels in East Baton Rouge Parish and elsewhere would pay higher taxes to help subsidize the New Orleans Saints under a plan that could be debated in the state Legislature.

The lawmaker behind the idea is state Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Harvey.

Connick sent an e-mail to fellow House freshmen asking for their reaction to a new hotel/motel tax - possibly one eighth of a cent - in several areas outside of New Orleans, including East Baton Rouge Parish.

Current subsidies for the team under a 2001 agreement come from hotels and motels only in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

That tax generated $28.5 million in the past year but often falls short of growth predictions.

Connick said Wednesday he wants to consider expanding areas where the tax would apply in part to ease pressure on the state's general fund, especially during tough economic times.

"There are a lot of Saints fans in this state who want to keep them," he said. "I just want to see if it works."

Connick said he has not decided whether to file a bill.

Any such proposal would face huge political hurdles in the Legislature, which begins its 2009 regular session on April 27.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has repeatedly said that he opposes any tax increase amid state economic problems.

Others echoed that view.

"I don't think we need to be raising taxes, especially with the downturn in the economy," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge.

Paul Arrigo, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked to Connick on Wednesday.

Arrigo said he told Connick that he clearly sees an economic value in having the Saints in Louisiana. But he said he doubts that the Saints generate hotel guests for Baton Rouge.

East Baton Rouge Parish has about 9,000 hotel and motel

rooms. Visitors pay a 13 percent bed tax on their room rates. Arrigo's group receives a 3 percent share to promote local tourism and attract conventions to Baton Rouge.

The issue stems from a 10-year deal that the state struck with the Saints in 2001 to keep the team in New Orleans.

The subsidy package totals $187 million and is thought to be the only one of its kind in the National Football League.

However, the group that runs the Louisiana Superdome told lawmakers last month that it is unlikely to have enough money to pay the Saints and New Orleans Hornets next year.

The shortfall is $27.5 million, officials said.

Any new hotel/motel tax revenue would go to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which runs the Louisiana Superdome and makes the payments to the Saints.

The Jindal administration and the Saints are trying to work out an extension of the contract, which expires next year.

Connick conceded that his proposal has generated criticism.

"Once you get past the initial 'hell no' there may be something there," Connick joked of early reaction.

But "creative ways" are needed to meet the state's obligation to the Saints, Connick said.

"My goal is not to help ease Tom Benson's payroll," he said, a reference to the owner of the Saints. "It is to help the state keep professional teams."

Other areas that could be subject to higher hotel and motel taxes under Connick's proposal are Lafayette, Lake Charles and St. Tammany Parish.

"If it is for the Saints, I don't think it would be that well received," said state Rep. Joel Robideaux, No-Party-Lafayette.

State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said he would oppose a tax like Connick described.

House Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, also criticized the proposal.

"I don't think it is going to fly," Lambert said.

Connick said he has not decided how much revenue to seek if he files a bill.

Whether any such tax increase would require the support of a majority or two-thirds of lawmakers, and possibly parish voters, depends on the legislation.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 26, 2009

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