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MDC President Padrón to Florida lawmakers: The needs are great

A bill that would let Miami-Dade residents decide whether to tax themselves to support Miami Dade College sailed through its first committee stop in the House Wednesday.

The half-penny sales tax would last five years and be used to fund construction and maintenance projects on Miami Dade's various campuses. Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who is sponsoring the bill in the House, estimated the measure would raise between $120 and $140 million annually.

"To serve the community the way we always have, we need additional help," Miami Dade President Eduardo Padrón said after Wednesday's vote. "The needs are great. There are opportunities to train people for new jobs, to create new programs, and to have the type of facilities that will make the community proud."

HB 1295 found little opposition in the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, expressed concerns with what he said would be "an almost a $1 billion tax increase," and asked for tight controls over how the money would be spent. But he ultimately voted in support of the bill.

Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, also gave his blessing.

"There is really nobody in Miami-Dade County who has not been affected by the college in one way or another," Rodríguez said. "It really is that place where folks from all walks of life can go to get ahead... Something like this is necessary."

The bill passed by a unanimous vote.

For additional coverage, check out this story by Mike Vasquez.