Georgia leaders react to stadium proposal - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Georgia leaders react to stadium proposal

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ATLANTA -

Georgia's elected leaders will make an important decision on whether a new billion-dollar football stadium is built in Atlanta.

A vote is looming in the next legislative session that will determine the extent of the state's role in paying for the project.

The framework for a deal announced on Monday hinges on expanding a state authority's capacity to borrow money. That'll be an issue before the General Assembly session next month.

The outline of the deal for a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome calls for the Falcons to cover 70 percent of the cost of construction. The public investment would amount to about $300 million, which would come from  bonds backed by revenue from Atlanta's hotel/motel tax.

But the state legislature would need to increase the Georgia World Congress Center Authority's limit on issuing bonds from $200 million to $300 million.

After a speech to a pre-legislative conference in Athens on Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Nathan deal told FOX 5 that the hotel/motel tax revenue is not money that would be available for other purposes.

"That is the only dedicated revenue to paying those bonds and that is not money that would go into the general fund, would not be money that we could spend on education or transportation or anything else," said Deal.

Deal said the real question is whether a new stadium is needed.

"And that is something that if think the Falcons have to be able to explain to a broader audience than has currently been involved in that decision making process, namely the members of the General Assembly,"  Deal said.

Top Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they would approach that issue carefully.

"We need to look at all of the facts and look at what kind of economic impact the facility could bring and look at what we are asking from Georgians," said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican.

"For us as legislators and certainly for me as a leader of the House Democratic Caucus, it's incumbent upon us to understand not only the economic impact but the impact on the communities that are surrounding the stadium," said Georgia House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been one of the biggest supporters of the deal. Reed said on Tuesday that while he knows there's some opposition to the deal, he's pleased the plan is moving forward.

"I understand how tough it is, I've certainly heard from folks who seem to think that I'm not listening. I'm listening quite a bit. But I also see the folks who work at our hotels and motels, I also know that our convention business employs more than 200,000 people and I know that when we are best in class, we're going to continue being one of the leading convention centers in the United States," Reed said.

Two sites are still under consideration for the proposed stadium. The Georgia Dome would be torn down if the deal goes forward.

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