Count Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne among those unhappy with the way the $25.6 billion state operating budget was balanced.
“Our tourism budget got slammed,” Dardenne said.
State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, said Wednesday that he shares Dardenne’s concerns about the diversion of tax dollars used to fund the marketing and advertising of Louisiana as a tourist destination.
“We’ve got to invest in these types of marketing activities,” Leger said.
At issue is whether the governor and the Legislature are diverting too many tourism dollars to pay for other obligations, including the Super Bowl and the Independence Bowl.
The Jindal administration contends Dardenne is getting an adequate amount of money. Dardenne disagrees.
“Obviously, having the Super Bowl in Louisiana is a major tourism promotion event,” said Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor’s budget chief, on Wednesday by email.
Rainwater said the dollars will be used in a way consistent with tourism’s goals, which include leveraging Louisiana’s attractions and events, meeting the needs and expectations of visitors and creating a positive image of the state.
The lieutenant governor’s beef has to do with what are known as pass-throughs in the state spending plan for the fiscal year that starts in July.
Short of the money needed to keep state government services at their current levels, the Legislature passed a budget that uses half of Dardenne’s marketing and advertising dollars to pay for more than $12 million in entertainment events and arts grants.
By far, the biggest expenses are paying $6 million to draw the Super Bowl to New Orleans and $1.5 million to help artists. Dardenne also must bear the cost of:
- $300,616 for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.
- $314,108 for FORE Kids Foundation.
- $948,112 for the Essence Festival in New Orleans.
- $280,577 for the New Orleans Bowl.
- $544,050 for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
- $418,500 for Bayou de Famille Park in Jefferson Parish.
- $250,000 for Louisiana Special Olympics.
- $425,000 for Bassmasters.
- $1 million for the NCAA Women’s Final Four in New Orleans.
- $33,750 for the Senior Olympics, with headquarters in Baton Rouge.
- $100,000 for the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge.
- $56,000 for Kent House in Alexandria.
- $677,786 for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches.
Throughout the recently wrapped legislative session, Dardenne criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal for using tourism money to pay expenses that he contends do not entail marketing the state.
State law dedicates three-one-hundredths of a 1-cent sales tax to tourism promotion and advertising. Half of that $24.8 million revenue source is being diverted in House Bill 1, the budget legislation awaiting the governor’s signature despite efforts to force the state’s economic development agency to absorb some of the expense.
The revenue stream also is being tapped through a sweep of funds across state government.
Dardenne said he is left with about $6 million to market the state.
He also can use leftover dollars that BP paid the state after the oil leak.
“We’re off by millions of dollars of what I’d like to be spending,” Dardenne said.