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Dolphins Sun Life Stadium Bill Clears Another Senate Hurdle

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Sun Life Stadium Upgrade Rendering (Source: Miami Dolphins)

Sun Life Stadium Upgrade Rendering (Source: Miami Dolphins)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins have scored again in their push to upgrade Sun Life Stadium.

On Wednesday the Senate Finance and Tax Committee approved measure SB 306 which is aimed at helping the Dolphins organization in pursuit of a $400 million upgrade the stadium. The measure would guarantee $3 million a year for the next three decades to pay for upgrades.

“Today’s unanimous vote by the Senate’s Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee provides new momentum to our plans to bring Super Bowls, BCS title games and international soccer tournaments — and the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity that means — back to Miami Dade County,” said Miami Dolphins President Mike Dee in a Statement.

Sponsored by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, the committee changed the bill to add a referendum which requires voters in Miami-Dade County, already skeptical over taxpayer’s contributions heading to the Marlins Park, to approve a requested penny increase to the local bed tax.

“It’s also recognition that this is a far different project than previous ones, with the Dolphin’s paying a majority of the costs without using one dime of local property taxpayer money in any form and ultimately letting the voters have the final say,” said Dee.

The amendment allows the referendum to take place before the bill is enacted. That could potentially allow Miami-Dade to set a referendum vote for sometime this spring, ahead of the National Football League’s decision of where Super Bowl 50 will take place. South Florida is being considered, and the Dolphins say a newly renovated stadium could help give the region a leg up.

The Dolphins are asking for the mainland hotel bed tax to increase from 6 percent to 7 percent, as well as up to $90 million in sales tax rebates, paid out over 30 years. The $3 million annual tax break would be in addition to $2 million in annual payments Sun Life is already receiving. Altogether, taxpayer money would help fund about half of the costs for the $400 million renovation. The Dolphins would pay the rest.

The Miami-Dade County commission has endorsed the project and supporters say a stadium makeover would draw lots of visitors to major events like international soccer competitions, marquis concerts and the Pan American Games.

However, activist Norman Braman, who opposed the publicly-funded stadium for the Miami Marlins, and led a successful recall effort against former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, has not bought into the Dolphins plan and opposes it.

Meanwhile, another amendment tacked onto the bill ties into the proposal the elimination of a decades-old tax incentive worth about $10.8 million a year to bankers. Several members of the subcommittee were quick to question that move without any available staff fiscal impact analysis.

“In my district about 100 new banks opened because of that exemption,” said Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami. “I’m rather concerned we’re going to lose jobs and banks.”

The incentive, created in the early 1980s, was designed to draw international banks to locate in Florida, offering tax breaks in exchange for opening offices in the state.

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