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State makes team payment with borrowed money

NEW ORLEANS -- The state handed the New Orleans Saints a
check for $12,415,267.53 Tuesday, its annual multimillion dollar
payment to keep the team in Louisiana, according to Louisiana
Superdome official Bill Curl.

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.

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 two weeks ago 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.