Saturday, February 02, 2013

NFL Contract Forces Louisiana To Pay $5 Million To Saints As State's Budget Is Slashed

To address declining state revenues, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal slashed the state's budget $166 million, including cuts to battered women's shelters, ending dental care for pregnant women on Medicaid and closing hospitals. Yet the state of Louisiana will cut a $5 million check to the New Orleans Saints as part of a 56-page contract with the NFL franchise, which the state is required to make by the end of the fiscal year in which the Super Bowl game is played in New Orleans. Gov. Jindal's staff defended the payment, claiming the agreement the state signed with the Saints in 2009 will save the state more than $280 million over a 17-year period by ending guaranteed cash payments to the franchise. His administration also hopes that additional hotel tax revenues will help offset the payment.

The Saints are scheduled to receive $16 million in subsidies this year from the state, in addition to the $5 million bonus payment for hosting a Super Bowl. The 2009 deal included $85 million in taxpayer-paid improvements to the Superdome. One state lawmaker complained that no mention of the $5 million subsidy for hosting the Super Bowl was made when the 2009 deal was announced. “When you’re closing hospitals and clinics ..., it just flies in the face of reality that we continue to make Mr. Benson’s needs a priority. I just don’t understand that. I don’t think the administration made that clear,” State Rep. Sam Jones said. Another state lawmaker made the claim we heard over and over again in Indianapolis that the investment was worth it because of all the revenues and economic impact generated from hosting a Super Bowl. “I’d pay $5 million for each of the next 10 Super Bowls if I could,” said State Rep. Kevin Pearson.

As a postscript, Indianapolis International Airport saw its lowest number of flights and passengers in nearly a decade during 2012 when it hosted the Super Bowl. The revenue and economic windfall predicted by hosting the Super Bowl turned out to be one big fantasy. The city's budget faced a large budget gap, requiring tens of millions of dollars in cuts, and our esteemed City-County Council just enacted two new tax increases to benefit the cash-rich CIB after Mayor Greg Ballard held critical funding for other county agencies hostage so the CIB can publicly finance a new soccer stadium proposed for downtown Indy by his largest campaign contributor, Ersal Ozdemir. Ordinary taxpayers get the short end of the stick every time. The fat cats get fatter and the politicians whose wallets they're stuffing with cash are getting thicker.

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