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tiggerpolice 06-23-2005 08:22 AM

State still grappling with way to make Saints payment
 
State still grappling with way to make Saints payment
6/21/2005, 11:34 a.m. CT
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Still trying to generate the cash for the annual payment to the Saints, the state is again looking to borrow money to make this year's payment — this time in a financing mechanism not used by the state for a decade.

The annual payments are part of a 10-year, $186 million agreement negotiated by Gov. Mike Foster's administration in 2001. The state is about $9 million short of the $15 million payment due to the NFL team on July 5.

Last year, the state raided an economic development fund to pay the team and has yet to repay that debt to the fund.

To make this year's payment, the state is asking for a short-term loan through so-called "revenue anticipation notes." The state Bond Commission will take up the request Monday.

State Treasurer John Kennedy called it "a last resort when you're down to virtually no alternative."

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards embraced the practice, and former Gov. Buddy Roemer relied on revenue anticipation notes to keep the state afloat while he grappled with the $1 billion debt racked up by the Edwards administration.

Since then, the measure hasn't been used at the state level, according to Kennedy.

Relying on the notes means the state has to bank on an improvement in the Superdome's revenue pots.

"The obvious question is if you use future revenues to pay back the revenue anticipation notes, what if your revenues don't increase?" Kennedy said.

"You're in the hole again," he said.

Lawmakers also are searching for ways to generate the dollars for the Saints, including a bill that would put the Saints in line to get part of the local area's share of the tax dollars generated when slot machines go online at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.

The measure was sent Tuesday to a legislative compromise committee to work out the final details. Backers of the provision don't know how much money would be generated for the payments.

The Saints' payment would fall after a line of New Orleans area projects outlined in the bill for receipt of the slots tax dollars, including beautification projects and other sports events.

Meanwhile, Tim Coulon, chairman of the Superdome commission and the state's chief negotiator with the Saints, said he has not decided whether to accept a $50,000 salary authorized in language in the state's budget bill for next year.

Members of the commission are appointed by the governor to manage the Superdome. They receive $50 per meeting and use of a Superdome suite. Coulon, who works as a lobbyist, said he broached the issue of compensation for all members of the commission, though only his compensation made it into the budget bill.

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House Bill 393 can be found at www.legis.state.la.us



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