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Miami-Dade Considers Supporting Fins Tax Plan

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Miami Dolphins

MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – It’s a well-known issue: tax-funded sports stadiums in Miami. Now it’s back on the Miami-Dade County Commission’s agenda.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan is slated to introduce a resolution Wednesday backing the Miami Dolphins’ plan to use a state subsidy and local hotel taxes to fund about half of a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium, CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports. The resolution urges Florida lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the funding, and cites the upgrades’ ability to attract Super Bowl and other major events to the stadium.

The discussion comes roughly three years after a divided Miami-Dade commission backed borrowing about $360 million to build the Marlins a new $640 million baseball park in Little Havana. (The Marlins contributed $155 million, and Miami paid $120 million toward the complex, including a garage.)

The vote is widely credited with helping fuel the 2011 recall of then-mayor Carlos Alvarez. Dolphins insiders cite Marlins backlash as a major obstacle to winning tax dollars for the Sun Life renovation.

“If you give everything a little time, hopefully it heals a little bit,’’ said Rep. Erik Fresen, the original sponsor of the Dolphins’ stadium bill during the 2011 bid for a tax-funded renovation. “Last time, it was literally on the heels of the recall and everything that was so specific to the Marlins’ stadium.”

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has pledged private dollars would fund the majority of the $400 million upgrade of the privately owned stadium. The bill would qualify Sun Life for $90 million in state tax dollars over 30 years, and allow Miami-Dade to increase mainland hotel taxes to 7 percent from 6 percent for the renovations. The tax increase would generate about $10 million a year under the current market conditions.

In recent days, the Dolphins have released endorsements from large hotels in the area, including the Fontainebleau, Intercontinental, Trump Doral and, most recently, a string of Marriotts owned by the MDM development firm.

The baseball debate continues to hover over local politics. Last fall, Jordan was targeted by an anti-Marlins group for defeat in a reelection campaign supported by the Dolphins. She was not immediately available for comment Friday evening.

Norman Braman, the auto magnate who tried to block the Marlins plan and targeted Jordan and other baseball supporters for defeat, said he expected the commission to back public dollars for the Dolphins, too.

“I think they’ve got all the chutzpah you can imagine,’’ he said of incumbent commissioners. “I would be shocked if the commission didn’t do this.”

Fresen, a Miami Republican and co-sponsor in the House of the new Dolphins bill, said he needs the commission to endorse the legislation before he pushes it will fellow lawmakers. Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, a Republican from Hialeah and co-sponsor of the bill, said he gives the Dolphins plan a 50 percent chance of passing the House.

“The entire delegation is not on board. We need a product everyone can live with,’’ he said.

The bill would create a special $3 million yearly stadium subsidy designed for Sun Life. The Dolphins currently receive $2 million a year from Florida under the current stadium subsidy program, tied to retrofitting the Miami Gardens facility to house the Marlins in the 1990s. The team moved out in 2011, and the Dolphins $2 million payments end in 2023.

While the bill opens up the subsidy to any renovation project where public dollars make up a minority of the funding, the language also restricts Florida from paying it to more than one stadium. Ron Book, the Dolphins’ lobbyist, said limiting the bill to one $3 million payout a year should make the proposal more palatable amid Florida’s continuing budget squeeze.

“You have to manage the economic impact to the state,’’ he said.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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