Saints to get $5 million from state

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Helping lure the Super Bowl to New Orleans will net the Saints franchise $5 million from state government during tight economic times.

The “economic consideration and reimbursement” is on page 16 of a 56-page contract between the National Football League Saints team and the state. The contract requires the state to pay the money “at the conclusion of the fiscal year in which the game is played in New Orleans.”

With the NFL Super Bowl kicking off Sunday in New Orleans, the state is required to make payment on June 30, six months after Gov. Bobby Jindal slashed the state budget by $166 million, partially to address declining revenue.

The budget cuts prompted the state to reduce funding for battered women’s shelters and to stop providing dental care to pregnant women on Medicaid. A $1.3 billion shortfall is expected next fiscal year.

The Jindal administration said it wants to make the payment to the Saints with hotel and motel tax dollars generated in the New Orleans area. Michael DiResto, spokesman for the Division of Administration, said legislators will be asked to appropriate the dollars in the upcoming session.

DiResto said the deal the governor signed with the Saints in 2009 saved the state money by ending large cash inducements. He estimated the savings will be more than $280 million over 17 years.

The Legislature approved the agreement four years ago.

The contract calls for the franchise to “use its best efforts to bring Super Bowl games to be played in New Orleans.” The state agreed to pay $5 million to the Saints for each Super Bowl that is played in or awarded to New Orleans. The contract states: “This obligation of the State shall survive the expiration or earlier termination of this Agreement.”

DiResto said money for health care or higher education will not be diverted to pay the Saints.

He said the Saints are slated to receive $16 million this fiscal year, not including the $5 million Super Bowl incentive or the state’s rent payments on Benson Towers.

He said the Saints will receive $2.3 million from out-of-state players’ tax revenue, $1.7 million from general fees and self-generated revenue and $12.2 million from game day revenue.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said he cannot recall the $5 million payment being mentioned when Jindal presented his proposal four years ago to keep the Saints in Louisiana through 2025.

The proposal included $85 million in taxpayer-funded improvements to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the state’s signature on a lease agreement for office space in a building owned by Saints owner Tom Benson’s family.

Jones noted that the state is closing hospitals in a bid to save money.

“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,” Jones said.

State Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, said a Super Bowl generates countless tax dollars for the state.

“I’d pay $5 million for each of the next 10 Super Bowls if I could,” he said.