Voters may get a say in whether tax dollars can be used to renovate the Miami Dolphins football stadium.
A Florida Senate panel on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (SB 306) that would guarantee $3 million a year for the next 30 years to help pay for upgrades at Sun Life Stadium. But the committee changed the bill to require a referendum before local bed taxes can be used for the project.
“Today's unanimous vote by the Senate's Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee provides new momentum to our plans to bring Super Bowls, BCS title games and international soccer tournaments -- and the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity that means -- back to Miami Dade County," said Mike Dee, president and chief executive officer of the Dolphins. “It's also recognition that this is a far different project than previous ones, with the Dolphin's paying a majority of the costs without using one dime of local property taxpayer money in any form and ultimately letting the voters have the final say."
The legislation still must go through two more Senate committees before it reaches the full Senate.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to use state and local to help pay for $400 million worth of renovations. Backers contend it will help bring back the Super Bowl to the area. The Miami Hurricanes also play at Sun Life.
But the Dolphins must first strike a public financing deal that will go on a ballot with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who said Wednesday he's still in fact-finding mode.
"There is a benefit to getting the stadium to be a certain way so we can attract certain attractions," he said. "How much that public purpose offsets what the return on public investment is, that's still up in the air."
According to a poll by Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political science professor, 73 percent of Miami-Dade voters oppose the public financing. The poll asked 1,000 "super voters" whether they'd support publicly funding the stadium.
Gimenez said he will oppose any plan that puts the public in debt and will require the Dolphins to show their finances.
Ross, who is worth $4.4 billion, according to Forbes, said he will pay a little more than half the proposed $400 million worth of renovations.
"If Stephen Ross doesn't think it's a good investment personally, how would he explain it as a good investment to the public?" Local 10's Glenna Milberg asked the Dolphins' Nat Moore.
"I think if he didn't think it was a good investment personally, he wouldn't be willing to put up more than $200 million," answered Moore.
The Dolphins are competing against the San Francisco 49ers for Super Bowl L.