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tiggerpolice 06-13-2005 08:54 AM

Blanco snubs N.O. lawmakers on retrieving casino money
 
Blanco snubs N.O. lawmakers on retrieving casino money
Governor tells them to work within budget
Friday, June 10, 2005
By Robert Travis Scott
Capital bureau
BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco rebuffed the House delegation from New Orleans this week when members asked her to intervene on the state's refusal to cough up millions of casino tax dollars owed to the city for support services.

The House members met with Blanco on Wednesday evening to request her help with the budget bills now in the Legislature to ensure that New Orleans gets its share of taxes from Harrah's New Orleans Casino, as provided in the state's contract with the gambling hall.

The state, which collects the Harrah's taxes, owes the city $3.6 million this year and is about $9 million in arrears, city officials say. The money is supposed to defray the extra expenses of police, fire and sanitation services that came with the casino -- which the city says amount to $4.1 million a year. None of the state's pending budget bills currently contains an appropriation needed to pay the city.

Blanco told the representatives to take their request to the senators now reviewing the state budget bills.

The meeting Wednesday marked a new and fractious chapter in Blanco's tenuous relationship with the New Orleans representatives, who are opposing the governor's plan to raise local hotel and auto-rental taxes to help pay the state's financial obligations to the New Orleans Saints football team.

Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, said nearly all of the city's delegates had supported the governor's hospital tax that passed the House on Wednesday, as well as her proposal for a $1-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes. The delegation met with her and administration officials to "remind them of the state's obligation" to reimburse the city with the casino money, Carter said.

Carter said she asked the governor, "Please don't make us beg for that."

But Blanco said there is a limited amount of money in the budget, and the delegation already has items in it. So the delegation members need to "get their priorities straight" and arrange them within those limits in the budget bills, Blanco said. The House members will have to take their plea to the Senate.

The lawmakers could seek to get their request into the $18.4 billion appropriations bill for the next fiscal year, Blanco said. Another possible source of money is the supplemental budget bill, the main instrument for spending the state's unexpected windfall of extra revenue before the current fiscal year ends June 30.

That bill contains $359 million in new spending from the state general fund, some of which is being used to pay legal judgments owed by the state and to boost underfunded government employee retirement systems. It also contains more than $45 million in small and large windfalls for various agencies and programs in state government.

The casino money has been a bone of contention since Harrah's signed a new contract with the state in 2001. Each year, the city negotiates a contract with the Gaming Control Board for its share of the casino taxes, and the target payment is about $3.6 million a year.

Harrah's has paid its taxes to the state since 2001, but the Legislature hasn't appropriated the full amount to the city; so far, the state has paid $2 million to New Orleans. Earlier this year, Blanco urged Mayor Ray Nagin to try to get more money directly from Harrah's.

. . . . . . .


Robert Travis Scott can be reached at rscott@timespicayune.com or (225) 342-4197.



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Euphoria 06-13-2005 10:28 AM

RE: Blanco snubs N.O. lawmakers on retrieving casino money
 
I am starting to believe the state wishes it could annex New Orleans from the state. It seems they don't care about NO and or the Saints, now if Benson would say he is going to move the Saints to Baton Rouge, he'll be looked upon as King of all that is good with Louisiana.

saintswhodi 06-13-2005 10:33 AM

On that point Euph, I am gonna agree with you. What the hell is going on? There is a contract stating they have to pay this money to New Orleans, and they aren't doing it? 9 mil in arrears? Damn. Can the seperation between New Orleans and the rest of the state be any clearer? Is Baton Rouge just jealous cause New Orleans SHOULD be the capital, and there is some sort of "city" envy going on? I mean seriously. This is borderline insanity. How can a state be in debt to one of its cities, and on top of that refuse to pay?

mayoj 06-13-2005 10:52 AM

Agreed. They refuse to help us pay for the Saints and then take our money too. You can't steal someone's car and then ask them to give you a ride somewhere. It doesn't make sense and comes off more as adding insult to injury than anything else.

Euphoria 06-13-2005 11:17 AM

Yeah I use to think and really didn't understand the rival between LSU and Saints fans. I simply didn't get it. I mean I am originally from Houma and favor New Orleans more but when any team in Louisiana does well I am happy. I cheer for LSU and I cheer for the Saints but inherently there is something there I missed. You go go Baton Rouge its LSU LSU LSU, f-da-Saints. Ya go to New Orleans and its gueax tigers, gueax Saints, gueax greenwave. When this whole mess started I get it... I got it. Baton Rouge is trying to hang onto being the State capital. "Send us the tax money and you can't have anything for it"... I smell a revolution.

saintswhodi 06-13-2005 11:26 AM

I wonder how much money the state would lose should New Orleans choose to keep ALL it's money in house. Money from Harrah's, the Saints, tourism, everything. Who the hell is visiting Shreveport? Or Baton Rouge outside of LSU games? Lafayette? Please, noone is going there unless they have relatives. Lake Charles, yes. But can that really add up to what the city of New Orleans brings in? This is BS, and makes the governor appear as slimy as Benson when it comes to contracts, negotiations, and parting with money. I don't know why, but for some reason reading this has really pissed me off. Maybe cause I thought the governor was on the up and up when dealing withthe Saints, and she very well may be, but things like this add that layer of doubt that you really don't need. :x

Euphoria 06-13-2005 03:32 PM

I do think both sides are at fault but the stance the State has taken is a lousy one, when it comes to keeping the Saints. At least Benson is going to wait it out, costing SB bids in the mean time though. Benson can hold out until the State gets a new govenor though... I almost want to see Benson sue the state for non-payment.

ScottBalot 06-14-2005 09:27 PM

The good news is that it looks like Blanco has set herself up to be a one-term governor.

Halo 06-14-2005 09:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ScottBalot
The good news is that it looks like Blanco has set herself up to be a one-term governor.

Yeah when you say you don't care if the Saints stay or go, try to tax cigarettes, and tell New Orleans and Jefferson how to use their hotel/motel tax money... I don't think you're making many friends :?

Benson can just wait it out, collect on the contract and in 3 years he'll be negotiating with someone else.


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