The tax increase proposed by the Dolphins would raise the taxes charged guests at mainland hotels like the Intercontinental by 17 percent — from six cents on the dollar to seven cents. That would put the hotels on par with Miami Beach, which plans to raise its hotel tax to 7 percent in order to fund a renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.
In exchange for public funding, Ross said the Dolphins would sign a contract pledging to stay in Sun Life for almost three decades.
“I promise we will keep the franchise here in Miami and playing in that stadium for the next 25 years,’’ he said. In a later meeting with Miami Herald reporters and editors, the 72-year-old Ross added: “If I were to sell the team — or not be here — you could be assured the Dolphins will be playing here.”
The pledge to keep the team in South Florida is one of several elements that weren’t part of the Dolphins’ previous try for public dollars. In 2011, the Dolphins proposed a 7 percent hotel tax in 2011 as a way to improve Sun Life, with the stadium and the Miami Beach Convention Center splitting the proceeds. That bill died after passing one Senate committee.
The 2011 law also would have allowed Broward County to raise its hotel tax to improve the stadium. This time, the Dolphins are only targeting the Miami-Dade tax after Broward commissioners voted against spending any money on Sun Life.
And while Huizenga tried for a second sales-tax rebate in 1997, the Dolphins did not ask for the extra dollars in 2011. The new dollars would help make the numbers work for a more expensive venture than the $225 million price tag the Dolphins attached to their 2011 plan.
Marlins backlash was also an obstacle in 2011. But the mood has soured even more following a federal securities investigation into the government bonds that financed the deal, and a series of trades by the Marlins that jettisoned star players and cut payroll by millions.
In 2009, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria agreed to pay about 25 percent of the $639 million project, contributing a combination of rent and construction funds worth $155 million.
Miami-Dade owns the Little Havana ballpark, but the Marlins keep the revenue. Ross owns Sun Life and pays about $3 million a year in property taxes.
Ross suggested he might be willing to put in well more than 50 percent of the construction money into the deal if he could negotiate some sort of operating arrangement with Miami-Dade that would lower his yearly costs. That’s similar to the deal Miami-Dade gave the Miami Heat when it wanted a new basketball arena downtown. The Heat agreed to finance construction of its county-owned arena in exchange for a $6 million subsidy paid out of county hotel taxes.
Braman, the Marlins critic, said the current economic climate makes the Dolphins’ latest request more distasteful. “It’s ludicrous to be going for a sales tax refund when the state has been cutting back funding in education and other areas because of the recession,” he said. “That’s wrong.”
But Ross argued the 26-year-old stadium needs work done now before it slips further behind modern stadiums competing for Super Bowl and other major events. He said this proposal was designed to overcome past obstacles in the political arena.
“Today, there is never a right time to ask for public dollars,’’ Ross said. “This is a lot different than it was before. We listened.”