Wednesday, 20 July 2011 22:54

Blowing Whistle On Jindal-Saints Deal And State Leases

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NFLAn increase of nearly $20 million. That’s how much taxpayer cash will be needed — at least for starters — to cover the rent hikes connected with the state’s latest deal with the Saints organization

By Jeremy Alford

It was in early 2009, months before the Saints would kick off a historic championship season. Like others in power before him, Gov. Bobby Jindal was tasked with cutting a deal that would both keep owner Tom Benson happy and the Saints in New Orleans.

 In order to make it happen, Jindal agreed to cough up $85 million in repairs for the Superdome, make cash payouts of $6 million annually if the Saints have a revenue shortfall and underwrite a new sports entertainment district. Of course, tax dollars are being used to bankroll Jindal’s deal — all in hopes that the investments will be eventually returned via state revenues.

But that’s not all Jindal agreed to during those negotiations two years ago. He also agreed to move state agencies into more than 325,000 square feet of vacant property in Benson Tower. That meant dozens of state agencies have had to wiggle out of their leases, which in turn has led to concerns that Benson Tower is siphoning money away from other local businesses, especially in Jefferson Parish.

It’s difficult to quantify what taxpayers are getting from this part of the deal. In all, 56 state agencies have either already moved into Benson Tower or are preparing to relocate.

Moreover, research conducted by THE JEFFERSON REPORT reveals that the overall rent increase to taxpayers now stands at $1.28 million annually. Over the lifespan of the 15 year deal, that’s nearly $20 million.

This figure doesn’t even take into account any other prices hikes that will come about as a result of increases to the Consumer Price Index, which is also part of the sweetheart deal. Nor does it take into account moving expenses.

Eight agencies will see their rents boosted by more than $60,000, including:

— Social Services, Office of Community Services/Parish, $78,434.35

— Public Safety & Corrections, State Police, $77,019.51

— Social Services, Office of Community Services/District, $75,061.72

— Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health/Vital Records, $70,401.08

— Health and Hospitals, MVA Medicaid (Eligibility Field Op), $65,926.70

— Health and Hospitals, OPH – Region I, $63,857.95

— Justice, Litigation Division, $63,636.01

— Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health/Vital Records, $63,073.25

Then there are logistical challenges as well. A source close to the deal tells TJR that many agencies are ending up with more square feet than they need, while others are still waiting to find out where they will be placed. There are likewise concerns being brought to the administration regarding insufficient parking, safety and the hours Benson Tower will be open.

For more on the rental costs to each state agency, see the chart below.

First Published by Jeremy Alford of the Jefferson Report

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