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Dolphins get unanimous support for stadium tax deal in first Senate hearing

The Miami Dolphins started off the legislative season 1-and-0 in their attempt to get lawmakers to approve a multi-million dollar deal to upgrade its 25-year-old stadium.

Lawmakers in the Florida Senate Commerce Committee gave unanimous support to a bill that would clear the way for higher hotel bed taxes and a new sales tax rebate to help fund a $400 million renovation of the Fins’ digs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, has cleared its first hurdle, but it still faces an uphill climb. There will be several more committee stops and the bill also has to clear the Florida House, where Braynon acknowledged that there’s still some heavy lifting to do.

“In the Senate, I don’t think that we’re going to have as many problems as we’re going to have in the House,” he said.

The bill would allow the Dolphins to collect an annual $3 million in sales tax rebates from the state for 30 years, as well as millions more in new bed taxes.

Several stakeholders came up to Tallahassee to support the bill at its first committee hearing, including Miami Gardens mayor Oliver Gilbert,  SunLife stadium CEO Mike Dee and Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President Bill Diggs.

All supporters pitched the same message: This tax deal is a smart economic move for the state, and would lead to Super Bowls, college championships and other major tourism events. 

Several Senators lined up behind that idea, giving the measure unanimous support after a lengthy period of questions and commentary. The Senators’ openness could bode well for other sports teams across Florida that are considering taxpayer funded stadium deals.

“You have a sure deal here,” said Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami. “You know that they’re going to employ more people. You know that it’s going to bring in more money.”

None of the supporters brought up the Miami Marlins deal, which has been criticized as a poorly designed taxpayer giveaway.