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News » Lawmakers target Saints, Jindal *** Jindal wants to tap surplus to pay Saints

Lawmakers target Saints, Jindal *** Jindal wants to tap surplus to pay Saints

Lawmakers target Saints, Jindal *** Jindal wants to tap surplus to pay Saints
The Jindal administration wants to use $85 million of a state surplus as well as pay up to $6 million a year to keep the Saints Football team in Louisiana, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The deal, described by legislators briefed on the offer, would require the state to pay far less than the $23.5 million the team is receiving in annual cash inducements.

"It's definitely a move to eliminate those big payments," said state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans.

Leger said the $85 million would be used for infrastructure improvements.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Saints owner Tom Benson are scheduled to hold a news conference today at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

Several lawmakers were critical of the proposal, which coincides with a budget crunch threatening health care and higher education with substantial reductions.

They said Benson should not be benefiting at a time in which state services are suffering.

"Again, behind closed doors, we're supplementing a multimillionaire. When do we stop the madness and worry about education and health care?" asked state Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, and chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus.

State Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, said the proposal is better than the existing agreement but still uses taxpayer dollars.

He said Football players are being valued above those trying to learn to read.

"They're robbing the poor and giving to the rich," LaFonta said.

Jindal refused to comment Wednesday on what his administration is offering the NFL franchise for a long-term commitment to stay in the Superdome.

"We're not going to speculate on any agreement until we have an agreement," Jindal said.

The Jindal administration arranged for legislative leaders and New Orleans lawmakers to be briefed Wednesday on the negotiations with the Saints .

Lawmakers complained earlier this month about not being kept in the loop after reports emerged about Benson possibly buying a New Orleans office building and leasing space to the state as part of a long-term deal.

The Saints and the state are negotiating on keeping the NFL team in the Superdome past 2018.

Former Gov. Mike Foster brokered a deal that guarantees the team cash inducements through the 2010 season.

Hotel-motel taxes were supposed to cover most of the inducements, which rose to $23.5 million after several years.

Those tax collections have regularly fallen short, forcing the state to find money to pay the Saints .

Jindal said he wants to decrease the team's dependence on state funds.

"We do not have a signed agreement," he said.

Several lawmakers said the state appears to be close to inking a deal with the franchise.

State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said he left an early morning briefing with the impression an agreement is imminent.

"I'm one of those people (who) firmly believes we should keep the Saints ... There's a certain intrinsic value," he said.

Martiny said Dominion Towers still is a key piece of the deal, with Benson buying the building and the state renting more than 300,000 square feet.

LaFonta said the state would pay $3.8 million a year to lease space from Benson.

The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which oversees the Superdome, would be involved in the development of an empty mall next to the Dome, Martiny said.

State Sen. John Alario, D-Westwego, said the amount of cash payments would depend on factors such as ticket sales, making the agreement similar to the one the New Orleans Hornets has with the state.

He said a deal could be signed in the next couple of days.

Despite the financial belt tightening, the state has an $865 million surplus from the financial year that ended June 30, 2008.

Jindal has announced he wants to use $300 million for coastal restoration, $246 million for roads and $100 million for higher education construction projects.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 30, 2009

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Joey Thomas Name: Joey Thomas
Position: CB
Age: 27
Experience: 3 years
College: Montana State
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