MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami businessman Norman Braman would like nothing better than to become the deal killer for a proposed plan to renovate Sun Life Stadium using tax dollars.
Braman, who fought a losing fight against the Marlins Ballpark, has harsh words for Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
“This is welfare for a multi-billionaire,” Braman told CBS4′s Eliott Rodriguez. “People have been struggling to keep their jobs and their homes, and here’s a guy who’s worth $4.4 billion and he’s asking for welfare to remodel his stadium.”
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Braman said he’s prepared to fight the plan in Tallahassee and Miami-Dade County. He said if Ross is really serious about public financing, he should put the issue up for a vote.
Ross has proposed a $400 million plan that includes improved seating, giant video screens and other amenities topped off by a canopy to give fans some shade. Ross says he’ll pay for most of the upgrades but he wants the state and Miami-Dade County to pay the rest. The money would come from a hike in tourist taxes and state tax cuts for the Dolphins.
Braman says increasing Miami-Dade’s tourist bed tax is a bad idea. “To increase tourist taxes just discourages tourists from coming to our community,” he said. “ If we want to attract tourists to our community why do we tax the living daylights out of them?”
When asked if he had a message for Ross, Braman had this one: “Steve, open up your own checkbook! You can afford to make these improvements if you want to. It benefits you and benefits your investments.”
A South Florida lawmaker has another idea to pay for the renovations. Rep. Eddie Gonzalez of Hialeah is sponsoring a bill in the Florida House.
“We don’t want another Marlins situation. Something has to be done to protect Miami-Dade taxpayers,” he told CBS4’s Brian Andrews by phone.
Rep. Gonzalez plan, under the legislation he intends to push through, would pass part of the costs for the new stadium on to tourists.
“We think it will raise about $10 million dollars per year, said Gonzalez. “The idea is to allow Miami-Dade County to raise 1 cent on the bed tax on all mainland hotels. This would not apply to hotels on Miami Beach, for example.”
Gonzalez said this is all just getting off the ground, but agrees with Braman that Ross should shoulder the cost entirely.
“I’d like to see a situation where Stephen Ross foots the entire bill upfront,” said Gonzalez. “Then, he can get recoup his costs based on rebates and tax credits from both the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County.”
Rep. Gonzalez, in Tallahassee, said Representatives Fresen and Workman have agreed to be co-sponsors of the legislation. He is also looking for support on his plan from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors bureau, and the University of Miami, because of their stake in the Orange Bowl.