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News » Some not sold on Saints game plan


Some not sold on Saints game plan


Some not sold on Saints game plan
BATON ROUGE -- The proposed deal between the state and the New Orleans Saints still concerns lawmakers who think that tapping $85 million in state surplus money to renovate the state-owned Superdome is not the best use of the money, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday.


"You still have a number of members concerned about whether this is the right way to spend" parts of the state's $865 million surplus from last fiscal year, said Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, one of Gov. Bobby Jindal's floor leaders. "There are a number of different regions in the state interested in the surplus" being used in other ways.

Greene said although the proposed deal with the Saints is "more palatable" than the present agreement, which will pay the team $186.5 million between 2001 and 2010, he still has concerns about using the surplus.

The $85 million for the renovation is in Greene's House Bill 2, the state's $5.3 billion construction budget proposed for the fiscal year starting July 1. Greene's committee approved the bill Thursday. It was reassigned immediately for a hearing Monday in the House Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers must approve using the surplus money to expand Superdome seating, build more box suites and widen concourses to accommodate more concession areas. They also must approve an agreement for state agencies to lease office space in a building to be bought by Saints owner Tom Benson.

Under the deal, Benson will buy the Dominion Tower near the Superdome and rent about two-thirds of it back to the state for about $24 a square foot to house state agencies dislocated by Hurricane Katrina.

House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, said this week that he expects lawmakers to approve the Saints deal after rounds of debate and questions.

Tucker said the most the state will have to pay in cash incentives to the Saints is $6 million a year, possibly less based on ticket sales, luxury suite rentals and concession sales.

The construction budget is expected to be debated next week after the House approves the state's $27 billion operating budget in House Bill 1.

"I like the fact that we are not giving money straight to the Saints ," Greene said. "But I still have concerns about it. . . . when you have needs in health care, roads and higher education. . . . Mr. Benson will become our landlord; I have a certain amount of uneasiness with that."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 8, 2009

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