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Miami lawmaker supports Dolphins' referendum, calls current plan 'bad deal'

Another lawmaker is throwing support behind a plan for the Miami Dolphins to go before voters prior to receiving taxpayer funding for a $400 million stadium renovation.

Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, said he believes voters should be “partners” in whatever deal is struck for the Dolphins, since they ultimately will provide the taxpayer funding. He said more changes need to be made to what is currently a "bad deal."

 “If we as taxpayers are going to invest in the success of our hometown NFL franchise, we ought to do that as their partners not as their benefactors. We want them to succeed; they should want us to benefit as well,” said Rodríguez.

Over the weekend, Dolphins pivoted their strategy to include a referendum vote on the stadium financing plan. Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, confirmed that he would be changing the language of the bill to allow for a referendum vote.

Rodríguez believes billionaire Dolphins owner Stephen Ross should pitch in more of his own money in the deal. The Miami-Dade delegation of lawmakers did not throw its official support behind the Dolphins’ proposal, with some lawmakers opposed to the deal.

Rodríguez wants lawmakers to consider more stipulations in the deal, including potentially using some of the money generated by the Dolphins to help pay for the county’s debt on the Marlins stadium.

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez has also said he'd like Ross to pitch in more of his own money,.

See the press release below:

PRESS STATEMENT: Rep. José Javier Rodríguez calls for Better Deal for Taxpayers on Sun Life Stadium Proposal

 State Representative José Javier Rodríguez (Dist. 112, Miami) celebrates the move to let voters decide a critical piece of the legislative proposal calling for taxpayers to help pay for modernizing the Miami Dolphin’s Sun Life Stadium (SB 306, HB 165). The proposal calls for millions of dollars in additional state subsidies for the team and for the modernization of Sun Life Stadium funded in part with public dollars. Adding his name to those who support efforts to make Sun Life Stadium the kind of venue that will attract future Super Bowls, Representative Rodriguez believes the Miami Dolphin’s proposal is still very troubling and needs work before it goes before the voters. 

 Rodríguez made the following statement:

 “If we as taxpayers are going to invest in the success of our hometown NFL franchise, we ought to do that as their partners not as their benefactors. We want them to succeed; they should want us to benefit as well.”

“When it comes to the additional hotel tax, I want to see a better deal for the voters of Miami-Dade to vote on. While it is gratifying that the proposal will be amended to let the voters decide on the extra hotel tax, it now means voters would be choosing between a bad deal or no deal. I’d prefer that to be a choice between a good deal and no deal. We should explore changes that will add protections for the public. Allowing the added tax revenue to be spent for purposes other than Sun Life – such as applying a portion of the funds to pay down debt service on the Marlins Stadium that is currently paid for by taxpayers – or requiring revenue sharing with the County would make the deal a much better one for taxpayers.”

“The decision to hold a referendum is a positive addition to the proposal. However, while Miami-Dade voters would weigh-in on a new hotel tax, they would not be allowed to weigh-in on added state subsidies which are also part of the proposal. It calls for an additional $3 million in annual taxpayer subsidy to the franchise for the next 30 years to operate the modernized facility. That component of the proposal, which would not be subject to voter referendum, is very troubling.” The team’s owner, owner Stephen Ross (net worth $3.1 billion according to Forbes, 2011), seeks state assistance in its effort to complete a $400 million comprehensive modernization to the aging Sun Life stadium in time for a hoped-for 2016 Super Bowl. Miami faces stiff competition as it bids for this and future events, which offer potential economic payoffs. An “as-new” stadium would make Sun Life Stadium more competitive and avoid the risks of inclement weather which have threatened past Super Bowls. Although the stadium sits on publically owned land, the stadium itself is privately owned and operated by the Miami Dolphins. The team earned $253 million in revenue (according to Forbes, 2011).

Among the proposals Rodríguez suggests be considered are:

·         To require that so long as the modernized facility remains both privately-owned and privately-operated, that it share revenue with the County in proportion to the share of the public’s investment;

·         To provide the County alternate uses for the additional tourist development taxes, such as applying part of the additional taxes collected to pay down the portion of Marlins Stadium debt which is currently being paid by property-tax revenue; and

·         To require that whereas the modernized facility remains both privately-owned and privately-operated, if the franchise is sold or transferred that a share of public funds be remitted/returned to the County.