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Miami Gardens Democrat not so sure about Dolphins stadium proposal

A new sign of Democratic opposition to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium bill is coming from close to home—Rep. Sharon Pritchett, D-Miami Gardens. Pritchett represents the very constituents who live next to the Dolphins’ stadium, where a proposed $390 million upgrade is expected to bring new jobs to the community.

She has concerns about the bill. She voted for HB 165 in committee Wednesday, but due to a limited “structured debate” process, was not able to voice her concerns. 

The Herald/Times reviewed a copy of Pritchett’s prepared statement, in which the freshman Representative points out the fact that tax dollars would be going to a privately owned venture instead of “hospitals, schools and law enforcement.” Pritchett believes the Dolphins should pay back any tax revenue they get, with interest.

Even though her logic (pro-government, anti-“corporate-welfare”) is safely liberal, Pritchett is one of only two Democrats to publicly announce opposition to the stadium bill. Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, voted against HB 165 last month. 

Using rhetoric that bordered on left-leaning, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, admonished Democrats and Republicans on the committee for supporting the bill:

“When we decide we can’t expand Medicaid, when we can’t expand services to victims of domestic violence, when we can’t expand services to the (physically) disabled,” he said, “I hope you take comfort in the fact that you sent $385 million of your taxpayers’ dollars to a for-profit, billion-dollar corporation.”

The bill passed 10-7 Wednesday with 'No' votes from seven Republicans, and could have died in committee without united support from Democrats across the state. Pritchett and others on the committee have been lobbied quite hard by the Dolphins, as the team tries to gather up support for up to $90 million in tax breaks from the state and a new local hotel tax to raise even more. 

 Here’s Pritchett’s prepared statement on the bill: 

“I do appreciate the merits of job creation in these tough economic times and would welcome any economic opportunity for the residents, the constituents of House District 102 (my district) and Miami-Dade County as a whole. It appears the devil is in the details. 

Fundamentally, the need for modernization of an antiquated stadium is understood. I perceive such renovations would potentially help the Dolphins compete to host another Super Bowl, a Super Bowl that in the past has generated significant revenue. But, at whose cost? 

Essentially, taxes should not be used to help a private entity when governments are having a very hard time paying for hospitals, schools and law enforcement. 

A payment plan, including interest, to capture the initial investment is a suitable approach. I met with (Miami Gardens) Mayor (Oliver) Gilbert, and received a copy of the City Council’s adopted resolution urging the passing of legislation to fund upgrades to the stadium. I am being encouraged to support this bill for the sake of revenue generation that hopefully will come to local government that in turn may assist with much needed community-based projects and initiatives.

Mr. Chair, at this time, I ask Rep. (Eddy) Gonzalez to consider these concerns as it is not my intent to stand in the way of potential economic opportunity. I will vote ‘Yes’ today because ultimately, the will of the stakeholders, the voters, the people of Miami-Dade County should decide how their tax dollars are to be spent.”