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tiggerpolice 07-03-2005 07:15 AM

Superdome official: State will meet Saints payment deadline
Superdome official: State will meet Saints payment deadline
7/1/2005, 4:40 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The state was on track Friday to make its annual multimillion dollar payment to keep the New Orleans Saints in Louisiana, according to Louisiana Superdome officials.

Under a 10-year, $186 million agreement negotiated by former Gov. Mike Foster's administration in 2001, the state makes annual payments to the Saints.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has been trying to renegotiate the agreement, but has agreed to make the payments.

Bill Curl, a spokesman for the Superdome, said a loan approved by the State Bond Commission was completed Friday and that a check for about $13 million would be handed to the Saints on Tuesday, the first business day after the Independence Day weekend and the deadline for the payment.

"Blanco has consistently said that the state would honor its obligations and that is what is happening," Curl said.

Last Monday, the State Bond Commission approved the loan agreement, but it was still unclear how that borrowing will be repaid or how the state will meet its future obligations to the NFL team.

The state has struggled to pay the Saints for the past few years and has yet to repay the cash it borrowed from an economic development fund last year to make its payment. This time, the state is borrowing $10.5 million through a financing mechanism it hasn't used for at least a decade.

State Bond Commission members have said there were few options available since the Legislature adjourned last week without approving a new tax source for the Saints payment or setting aside dollars in the state's budget to make the latest payment.

The governor hopes to re-negotiate the Saints deal, but Saints owner Tom Benson cut off negotiations until after the 2005 football season when the Saints have their first opportunity to negate the current deal with an $81 million payment to the state. The state can opt out of the deal after the 2007 season.

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