Dolphins bill avoids tackle on opening play
A bill to help the Miami Dolphins upgrade their home survived a series of blitzes intended to make it more difficult for the team to receive tax breaks to help with $450 million in proposed renovations for the privately owned Sun Life Stadium.
The House Finance and Tax Subcommittee, in a 12-4 vote on Friday, backed new sales tax rebate and hotel bed tax requirements (HB 165) for stadium upgrades that are directed at the state's oldest pro team.
Members did support conditions endorsed by Gov. Rick Scott that at least half of the renovation costs come from private sources and for local voters to approve the deal.
Backers of the plan learned that it's not very popular with Miami voters, according to a recent poll, but they said they could find an upside.
"Most of the opposition has come from a couple members in Miami-Dade County, more from the south. For us in the northwest Dade area, I think we have more support when it comes to the people of our community," said Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, the sponsor of the bill.
Some of the opposition comes from reaction to how the Miami Marlins landed their new ballpark. Miami-Dade County is footing the bill for most of the ballpark and its parking facility in part by having borrowed $400 million through bonds sold on Wall Street that are projected to have cost more than $1.2 billion when the final payment is due in 2048.
"Our job is cut out to explain to the residents of Miami-Dade County what it is this one-penny bed tax does and how it differs from the Marlins, how much (Dolphins owner) Stephen Ross is going to put in to the deal compared to what the Marlins put into their deal," said Gonzalez (R-Hialeah).
Members of the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee also rejected amendments that would have prohibited a local special election to be quickly held on increasing the local hotel bed tax by a penny; required voters in neighboring counties to also approve any tax breaks; and required Ross — or any other professional team owner receiving sales tax rebates — to return to the state any increased value on the stadium accrued through the renovation work if the team is quickly sold.