Governor Jindal vetoes riverfront redevelopment bill

Morial Convention Center
Morial Convention Center

There has been a major setback for local tourism leaders, eager to get started on a riverfront redevelopment plan.

Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed House Bill 516, authored by Representative Walt Leger (D-New Orleans). In a statement, the governor said, "The bonded debt could count against the state debt limit... This project could be funded through the capital outlay bill."

Convention Center officials say they are extremely disappointed by the governor's veto.  GM Bob Johnson said no one from the administration argued against the bill in Baton Rouge, and he said the veto is unfortunate because it funded an economic development project that would have been transformative for New Orleans.

The sweeping plan called for a riverfront office, retail and hotel complex, all leveraged by Convention Center bond money.

"The crown jewel would be the convention hotel... we're the largest convention center in the country without a convention headquarters hotel, " said Johnson prior to the veto.

Johnson also said some of the world's biggest hotel operators and development companies were interested in the project. "They were watching the legislature on the Internet. They knew before I did" about the bill, said Johnson.

The plan also called for a new riverfront park, an eventual expansion of the Convention Center, and a people mover out front.

The goal was to have some of the major pieces in place by 2018, the year the city celebrates its 300th birthday. But now that the governor  has vetoed the measure, all that appears unlikely.

Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) tells FOX 8 that there will soon be a legislative override session in response to Jindal's vetoes.