Lawmakers ended the Florida legislative session without approving a bill that would have allowed a local vote on a proposal to provide taxpayer support for a $350 million upgrade to the Sun Life stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.
Will Weatherford, speaker of the Florida House, said, “We’re talking about a lot of money. We’re talking about a major public policy issue. Before we spend $300 or $400 million in tax subsidies, I just think we need to talk about it and evaluate it more.”
The proposed bill was not popular with likely voters coming on the heels of the widely-panned 2009 Miami Marlins stadium deal. The Dolphins faced an uphill task of getting lawmakers across the state to agree to their proposed tax deal. Some of the loudest opponents were members of the Miami-Dade legislature, who typically use their collective power to get bills passed that they believe will benefit the local community or in some way benefit them in the business or political arena.
The Dolphins were seeking taxpayer support from an increase in the Miami-Dade hotel tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and up to $90 million in state sales tax rebates.
In exchange for tax dollars and rebates, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would sign a 30 year deal preventing the Dolphins from leaving Miami-Dade. In addition, the team would agreed to a series of concession in an attempt to gain support including agreeing to repay much of the tax money after 30 years.
Stephen Ross has blamed Will Weatherford for killing the deal. Ross has said, “Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami-Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami-Dade and all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade, and that is just wrong. In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami-Dade. In the future, I will look to play an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee and will continue to work to create good jobs in Miami-Dade and throughout South Florida.”
Jorge Arrizurieta and H.T. Smith co-chaired the campaign seeking subsidized renovations to the stadium. In a statement following the action, or inaction, of the Florida legislature, they issued a statement which, in part, said, “By leaving Tallahassee without letting the people of Miami-Dade vote on the modernization of Sun Life stadium, the Florida House clearly showed our community that they would rather play politics than do the right thing. While the Tallahassee politicians found time to raise the contribution limits for their fundraising, they said they could not find time to let the people of Miami-Dade make their voices heard. While they pushed their political agenda, the House leaders refused to support the effort that would create over 4,000 jobs and provide a much needed boost to our local economy.”
While appearing on the local Sunday morning show, Facing South Florida, Mike Dee, CEO of the Miami Dolphins indicated all renovation plans have been canceled and the long term future of the team could be in jeopardy.
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