With large swaths of the Gulf Coast still in ruins from Hurricane Katrina, rich federal tax breaks designed to spur rebuilding are flowing hundreds of miles inland to investors who are buying up luxury condos near the University of Alabama's football stadium.Here in Louisiana, since the end of last month, we have had a different GO Zone problem:
About 10 condominium projects are going up in and around Tuscaloosa, and builders are asking up to $1 million for units with granite countertops, king-size bathtubs and 'Bama decor, including crimson couches and Bear Bryant wall art.
The State Bond Commission temporarily derailed projects seeking low-interest post-hurricane bond financing Thursday after the panel was told there is only $97 million left in the $7.8 billion program and more than $4.5 billion in projects on the list to be financed.I wonder if any inland luxury condo projects in Louisiana already got their bonds before these "big-ticket items?"
The commission voted 6-3 to put the brakes on approving developers' requests to use the tax-exempt Gulf Opportunity Zone Bond Program to help finance projects ranging from refineries and car dealerships to shopping centers, hotels and residential developments.
Bond Commission Executive Director Whit Kling said the panel's vote means that $3.4 billion in projects on Thursday's agenda have been shelved for now. Some of the big-ticket items in the New Orleans area placed on hold are:
--$1 billion to expand the Valero Refinery in St. Charles Parish.
--$900 million for Entergy to rebuild or construct "public utility property" in St. Charles Parish.
--$250 million to build an ethanol plant in St. James Parish.
--$200 million for commercial and residential development near Slidell.
--$100 million to expand a liquid logistics center operated by International-Matex Tank Terminals in St. Rose.
--$60 million to build a crude-oil storage complex in St. James Parish for NuStar Energy Services Inc.
--$24 million for a retail shopping center near Covington.
--$15 million for a 180-unit development in Slidell.