MIAMI - Automotive dealer Norman Braman remains against giving the Miami Dolphins tax dollars to modernize Sun Life Stadium.
On Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the Dolphins announced voters will decide whether tourist taxes will fund upgrades at the stadium.
"This is still welfare for a multi-billionaire," said Braman. "No one even knows what the real cost of this is. Is the mayor going to see Mr. Ross's personal financial statement or the financial statement of the Dolphins. This is a Marlin dressed like a Dolphin. That's all this is."
Gimenez suggested he'll ask owner Stephen Ross to pay more than half the $400 million cost and add a null-and-void clause if the NFL awards Super Bowl L to the San Francisco 49ers instead of the Dolphins.
"He started at 51. That's great," Gimenez said. "I don't believe we're going to end up at 51 percent."
"This should put this legislation, we hope, on the fast track and all indications suggest that's the case," said Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee.
The Dolphins had previously resisted a referendum, saying there wasn't time to hold a vote before the site for Super Bowl L was decided. But local legislators have shown only tepid support, and the Dolphins now believe referendum approval would help their chances in Tallahassee.
"What we have right now does not make sense to put to the voters because it's so lopsided," said State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami).
"Our harshest critics have said the voters need to weigh in," Dee said. "We support that."
Some of the money would come from raising the tourist taxes in Miami-Dade County from 6 to 7 percent and a $3 million sales tax rebate from the state. Florida legislators will decide whether the tourist taxes are raised.
"If the state legislature doesn't make the rule changes or the law changes, than this is moot. There is no public referendum because there is no deal," said Gimenez.
A referendum is risky for the Dolphins because many South Floridians remain upset about the public financing of the Miami Marlins' ballpark, which opened a year ago.
"The Dolphins have shown to be a lot different than the previous organization we dealt with," said Gimenez, who opposed the Marlins project. "The Marlins — that's the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Let's say what it is. That was a bad deal, and a lot of things were kept in the dark. I don't deal that way. I'm sure the Dolphins don't deal that way."
Gimenez added that a special election would cost the county up to $4 million. He said a deal must be reached by mid-March so commissioners can vote on a referendum before it's presented to voters.
"This is about Super Bowl 50," Dee said, "the biggest event, frankly, in NFL history."
Last month, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted in favor of using tax dollars to pay for improvements at the stadium. And last week, a Florida Senate panel unanimously approved a measure (SB 306) that would guarantee $3 million a year for the next 30 years to help pay for stadium upgrades.
The NFL is scheduled to announce who will host Super Bowl L on May 22.
Miami has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times, most recently in 2010. The Dolphins and the NFL say stadium upgrades are needed to keep the city competitive in bidding for future Super Bowl.
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