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News » Money to redo Dome sails past panel

Money to redo Dome sails past panel

Money to redo Dome sails past panel
BATON ROUGE -- With no debate Monday, the House Appropriations Committee approved spending $85 million in state surplus money to renovate the Superdome, a major component of a deal to keep the Saints in New Orleans through 2025.

The committee did not mention the Saints deal as it added more than $29 million in surplus cash from last fiscal year to House Bill 2 by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge. The bill now goes to the House floor for debate later this week.

The proposed pact with the National Football League team was expected to spark questions and controversy. Some lawmakers have criticized the use of the money for the Dome when it could be used on health care or highways.

Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, said that the Saints deal and any discussion of the surplus money for the Dome probably did not come up because the issue has been well-explained by Gov. Bobby Jindal's staff in a series of briefings with legislative leaders and a full House briefing on the issue last week by Speaker Jim Tucker, R-New Orleans.

Fannin said while he would prefer to see more state money used on constructing and maintaining highways and bridges, the Superdome is a state facility that has to be maintained.

Under the proposed deal with the state, Saints owner Tom Benson is to buy the Dominion Towers near the Superdome, renovate it and lease about 320,000 square feet of space to state agencies for $24 a square foot.

The state will pay the Saints no more than $6 million a year in cash incentives, possibly less if the team meets certain benchmarks, like attendance, box suite sales and ticket sales.

Greene said the $29 million added to the bill virtually wipes out all of the state's $865 million in surplus from last fiscal year. About $300 million has been earmarked for coastal protection, about $100 million would go to higher education construction projects and more than $240 million has been designated for highway and road projects.

The remaining $15 million, Fannin said, has been set aside to pay off debts incurred by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Some of the surplus money added to the cash section of Greene's bill included $7.5 million for emergency hurricane evacuation shelters around the state; $70,000 for work on Peters Road in West Jefferson; $10 million for the LSU-run Children's Hospital in Shreveport; $2 million for Bayou Segnette State Festival Park in Jefferson Parish; and $2.5 million for the Audubon Park Commission.

. . . . . . .

Ed Anderson can be reached at eanderson@timespicayune.com or 225.342.5810.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 12, 2009

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