Monday, June 24, 2013
Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law one controversial bill related to New Orleans tourism and vetoed another.
Jindal, in signing Senate Bill 242, paved the way for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau to impose a special assessment on room sales, provided the assessment is approved in a Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association referendum.
Stephen Perry, the CVB’s chief executive, has estimated the assessment could generate more than $13 million annually. Most of that revenue would be split between Perry’s organization and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
The nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research has questioned the initiative, claiming it will “consume a portion of the city’s tax capacity.”
Jindal’s veto of House Bill 516, meanwhile, rejects public financing for a $184 million Ernest N. Morial Convention Center expansion project. Jindal’s veto letter, released Friday, objected to the bill’s allowance of private
developers to receiving the benefits of tax-free bonds.
Tourism industry leaders, including the private CVB and public tourism marketing corp., also wanted to use the new bonding capacity to demolish the vacant former World Trade Center building on the downtown riverfront. In April, they submitted the proposal to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration under the name Tri-Centennial Consortium as part of a competitive redevelopment solicitation.
Two other developers who submitted proposals â€” James H. Burch LLC and Gatehouse Capital Corp., both of whom want to preserve the tower â€” have raised concerns that the bill unfairly favored Tri-Centennial. Amendments added after the bill was introduced sought to level the playing field by allowing bond financing for a range of World Trade Center plans, as opposed to demolition exclusively.
The city’s solicitation stated proposals “should be privately financed,” however, and the other two proposals don’t rely on public support beyond historic tax credits.
A selection committee composed of city officials will publicly discuss the proposals July 2.
CVB spokeswoman Kelly Schulz said the Tri-Centennial Consortium will meet this week to determine a response to Jindal’s veto.