BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed a bill that some say now deals a major blow to expansion plans at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
The measure by state Representative Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, would have authorized the sale of tax-free bonds to fund major improvements up and down Convention Center Boulevard.
"I'm incredibly disappointed," said Leger. "I think it was an unnecessary veto and not well founded under the law."
Jindal wrote in his veto message: "House Bill No. 516 by Representative Walt Leger grants additional powers to the Ernest N. Morial-New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority. The bill also would allow for the first time the Authority to use non-traditional tax free bonds that would benefit any properties being developed by commercial, private entities and the bonded debt could count against the state debt limit. In addition, this project could be funded through the capital outlay bill. For these reasons, I have vetoed House Bill No. 516 and hereby return it to the House of Representatives."
"The veto message tends to suggest that issuance of bonds by the convention center, which is a separate political subdivision of the state, may impact the state's debt limit. I think that's incorrect," said Leger.
New Orleans hospitality leaders had hoped to use proceeds from the bond sale to build phases four and five of the Convention Center just upriver from the existing facility along the Mississippi River.
Money was also earmarked for the renovation or re-purposing of the old World Trade Center site at the foot of Canal Street.
"It is a set back to the efforts to expand our ability to compete," said Leger. "It's set back to the renovation and restoration of Convention Center Boulevard area. It's a set back to the expansion concepts upriver from the convention center."
Leger says he will now ask lawmakers to override the governor's veto, something he admits is a long shot. If that fails, Leger says he will work with the administration during the next session to craft a bill the governor will sign.