Legislature backs $17 million for new Falcons parking deck

State leaders were so uneasy about voting on a plan last year to approve public financing for the new $1.2 billion Falcons stadium that they punted the debate to Atlanta lawmakers. But in the budget that earned final approval Tuesday, lawmakers have quietly slipped in $17 million in bonds to expand a parking facility for the new stadium.

You can find below the letter from Frank Poe, head of the Georgia World Congress Center:

Poe initially advocated for a $35 million parking structure, which he said would not only help handle the new stadium's traffic but also "provide parking for potential future development of a convention center hotel on our campus."

He's only getting about half the funds he wanted, and GWCC spokeswoman Jen LeMaster said the funds from the state will go toward expanding the sprawling Red Deck on the convention center's campus. The late addition, surprising because Gov. Nathan Deal and Republican lawmakers have steered clear of offering state funds to help fund the fancy new NFL digs, led to a sharp back-and-forth on the Senate floor.

Republican Sen. Jack Hill argued that the parking deck would be a boon for other downtown Atlanta attractions, while Democratic Sen. Vincent Fort said the plan underscored how the state's priorities are misguided. It easily passed and now awaits the signature of the governor, who is expected to sign it.