Plan to cut off Saints is rejected
Even critics say state should keep its word
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
By Robert Travis Scott
BATON ROUGE -- Although some members of the Senate Finance Committee expressed strong criticism of the state's contract with the New Orleans Saints, they voted 7-2 Monday to reject a bill to cut off all direct payments to the National Football League team.
They said they could not support the proposal because the state must stand behind its commitments with private sector enterprises.
Sen. Rob Marionneaux Jr., D-Livonia, who represents residents of six parishes around Baton Rouge, testified in favor of his Senate Bill 18. He has been a vocal critic of the contract, which guarantees the team $186 million in 10 years, including a $15 million payment due July 5. The state borrowed $8 million to make the payment last year, and officials say they are facing a similar shortfall this year.
Marionneaux's bill says, "No state funds shall be appropriated or otherwise granted, paid, or loaned to, or otherwise provided for us by, or primarily for the benefit of any National Football League franchise."
Marionneaux said the bill would effectively cancel the state's contract and forbid the state from any future agreements that give or loan money to the team. He said he supports the state's proposal to renovate the Superdome, where the team plays, and that his bill would not prevent that from happening.
Nearly 500 of Marionneaux's constituents responded to a survey he mailed about three weeks ago, and 482 of them said they did not want to see any further state support for the Saints.
Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, was one of several members of the panel sympathizing with Marionneaux's concern that the state is paying too much to Saints owner Tom Benson and that it might agree to another expensive deal.
"He wants more money, and we can't afford to give it to him," said Gautreaux, who said he voted against the bill because he thinks the state must honor its contract.
Committee Chairman Francis Heitmeier, D-Algiers, who also opposed the measure, reminded the committee members that the Legislature signed off in 2001 on the state's financial commitment to the Saints.
The agreement includes an exit clause that lets the team leave Louisiana after next season by repaying the $81 million it received during the first four years of the deal. If the Saints do not take the option, the deal remains in place.
The state also has a one-time, 30-day exit clause after the 2007 season.
The Saints recently called off negotiations to revamp and extend the contract, after reviewing a state proposal focused on a $174 million Superdome renovation. State officials have said the proposal would increase the team's ability to make money but reduce the amount of guaranteed income from the state after the renovation is complete.
RE: Plan to cut off Saints is rejected
Well if they voted to stop payment that is breach of contract and Benson could move them tonight, and you see what happened 7-2 gives Benson more support in negociations. Strike one agains the gov.
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